The “Talking Stick” Re-post

Posted By on February 22, 2009

I made a post about our Talking Stick last year but something made me think about it further and I decided to re-post and expand on this idea in greater detail. 

The idea of a “Talking Stick” is something I’ve been using in my team building facilitation for years.  I use the concept to process a situation or activity in a debriefing time after a group event.  I usually don’t use a specific prop for this; I simply grab something handy and appoint it as the “Talking Stick”… or rock… or… rubber chicken.  It’s a great device to allow everyone who wishes to be heard, be heard. 

We made the ”Talking Stick” pictured below and have been using it in our home.  I can be a bit cavalier at times and Sarah is quite sensitive, so I have found myself reaching for the “Talking Stick” which hangs on our banister on several occasions.  Not only does it allow everyone to feel heard but it changes the dynamic of an argument or misunderstanding and defuses the situation a little. 

About the “Talking Stick”

American Indian tribes used “Talking Sticks” for centuries as a tool for active and impartial listening.  The holder of the “Talking Stick” designates the person who has the right to speak and the full attention of the other parties.  The stick is passed to all who wish to be heard and as long as you hold the stick you have the floor until you feel you’ve been completely heard and understood.  A great communication tool from the American Indian that offers a great way for everyone to feel that they’ve been heard. 

This also work really well as a “Story Stick” which I use the same way only have the holder tell a story or a memory.  To separate the uses of these different tools, you can also decorate and designate a wooden spoon as a “Story Spoon”.  Try passing it around the table after dinner and in oral tradition share family stories, memories or dreams. 

All too often in today’s fast passed world we let active listening and good communication slide because we just don’t take the time or energy to stand in someone else’s shoes.  I believe we all need to carry a “Talking Stick” with us.  Maybe a “Talking Twig”.

Here is a quote from an article I found.  We made a couple of alterations to our stick such as replacing the blue stone with a small carved cross to symbolize sacrifice and reconciliation.  Of course we couldn’t get our hands on a eagle feather so a turkey feather had to do.  I suppose to signify that at times we are all “turkeys” and could stand stepping back and listening as well as talking.   

This is taken from an article by Carol Locust, PH.D.  Native American Research and Training Center, Tucson, Arizona

“The talking stick has been used for centuries by many American Indian tribes as means of just and impartial hearing.  the talking stick was commonly used in council circles to designate who had the right to speak.  When matters of great concern came before the council, the leading elder would hold the talking stick and begin the discussion.  When he finished what he had to say he would hold out the talking stick, and whoever wished to speak after him would take it.  In this manner the stick was passed from one individual to another until all who wished to speak had done so…

…Whoever holds the talking stick has within his hands the sacred power of words.  Only he can speak while he holds the stick; the other council members must remain silent.  The eagle feather tied to the talking stick gives him the courage and wisdom to speak truthfully and wisely.  The rabbit fur on the end of the stick reminds him that his words must come from his heart and that they must be soft and warm.  The blue stone will remind him that the Great Spirit hears the message of his heart as well as the words he speaks.  The shell, iridescent and ever changing, reminds him that all creation changes – the days, the seasons, the years – and people and situations change, too. ”  Full Article

Talking Stick Origanal Post


Sarah with our homemade "Talking Stick"


The Talking Stick

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"Education is not the filling of a pail but a lighting of a fire". W.B. Yeats


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