How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
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The talking stick
There is an old Native American custom of talking. And when I mean talking I don't mean idle chatter or thoughtless diatribes, but real talking, which of course means lots of listening. The basic principle is of a session that goes on for as long as is needed, in which those who need to talk, talk, and others listen, respectfully and reflectively. And where necessary, there may be long silences as people think about what has been said.
It is a principle that is alien to many people now, as we often seem to talk without listening, and cut off discussion before any conclusion has been reached. Yet it is a most powerful too.
I used this principle this week when there was tension in my family and it seemed like a good long talk was needed -- and even more listening. This is the rules of the method that we used, that I derived from what I know of Native American methods:
It seems simple, but in practice this is a very powerful method of creating deep communication. The session was very successful for us. People who had been silent about important matters spoke about them. People who had been frustrated got to air their views. People who wanted to make peace were able to have their say. And everyone followed the rules.
There is a old admonition that we have two eyes, two ears and one mouth -- and we should use them in this proportion. Talking stick sessions allow us to practice this. It lets us be heard and, often more importantly, it helps us to truly hear others who we have inadvertently been ignoring.
Our session helped the family become closer again when some had been drifting apart. We agreed that in future anyone can call another session at any time they like. I do hope they do.
Amen. Our family used this communication tool at our last family reunion. We
are Cherokee in blood, and wanted to bring some of the old ways back. It was
cathartic for some, eye-opening for others, and just a great way for our
talkative family to let others speak who are not always heard.