The Power of the Talking Stick

I once went to a meeting where there were a great many people.  I can’t really remember what we were there to discuss.  I do remember that it was a highly charged issue and one that just about everyone had an opinion about.

It was a noisy affair with people talking on top of each other, hoping to be heard; failing to listen and as time went on the frustration levels were reaching unmanageable proportions.

And then someone introduced the talking stick.

I had never heard of a talking stick up until that point, but that day I watched as its magic worked the room and rendered peaceful an otherwise chaotic atmosphere.

The premise of the talking stick is that only the person who holds it has permission to speak. The job of the rest was to listen.  And, as the stick was passed quietly from person to person, so the variety of views and opinions emerged, giving clarity to what we really had to do to address the issue that was so important to us all.  It was quite the experience.

So here’s something to try.  The next time you hold a meeting.  Take something with you that represents your “talking stick”.  It doesn’t have to actually be a talking stick, just something to hold onto that can easily be passed from person to person.

Here are the basic rules:

  1. The person holding the stick is the only one allowed to speak.
  2. When s/he is finished the stick goes to someone else who has something to say
  3. The job of those who do not hold the stick is to listen

It’s a pretty simple premise but I have seen it work wonders on unruly gatherings. Try it and let me know how you made out will you?

Have you used other tools to keep order in large meetings?  What were they?  How did they work for you?



Filed under Establishing Direction, Leadership Style, motivating & Inspiring

2 responses to “The Power of the Talking Stick

  1. I’ve heard of this but given my work don’t have much occasion to use a talking stick. I was thinking that it might be useful to actually introduce it to a group meeting by talking a little about it’s cultural origin. As well, I believe the object that’s passed around needs to have a ceremonial look and feel- people will more likely respect the idea and buy into it if they are holding onto something that has a sense of “importance.”

  2. prissyperfection

    Hi Dan,
    You make a great point. Whatever is passed around has to have a quality about it that carries weight. Otherwise, it gains no respect and moves from being a useful tool to just another gimic.

    Thanks for coming by!

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