Now’s the Time for ‘Talking Stick’ Therapy ~ By Mike O’Connor

The talking stick, also called a speaker’s staff, is an instrument of aboriginal democracy used by many tribes, especially those of indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast in North America. The talking stick may be passed around a group, as multiple people speak in turn, or used only by leaders as a symbol of their authority and right to speak in public” (Wikipedia)

When’s the last time you had a real conversation?

When was the last time you told someone your raw truth? Spoke with vulnerability about your deepest pain? Your hopes? Or your fears?

Maybe you’re tired of talking about things that mean nothing to you. TV soaps, sport, fake celebrities, the weather, fashion, what’s happening on social media and on and on. Just endless ‘noise’, free of content that has any depth. Thousands of words spoken every day, countless words heard, but still you’re left unfulfilled. Without your heart being touched or challenged. Or even changed.

The pandemic has caused many of us to take stock, of what’s important, of what matters to us and which of the things in our lives are simply distractions.

We need to communicate.

Personally, I want, no, NEED, to speak my truth. I NEED to hear yours. In times of isolation or societal upheaval, more than ever, we need to get honest and listen to one another.

There are family homes today where each member of the clan sits in a different room, on their phone or iPad.

We’re close to each other but miles away from one another.

It saddens me.

I think it’s time we bring back the talking stick and use it so that we can practice truthful speaking and mindful listening. So we can draw close again.

Imagine…if regularly, all members of a household, friendship group, couples in relationships, or working colleagues put everything down, turned everything off, sat together quietly and began truly listening to each other.

What would we hear? Maybe a promise might be made? An overdue apology offered? Might there be a confession? A reconciliation? What funny story would come to light? Could you hear the reality of someone’s job or the importance of a special friendship? Would we pick up on something that wasn’t being said? That we needed to hear? How much more would we understand and empathise with one another if we slowed down and stopped for a little while to listen?

What will you talk about, when the talking stick is placed in your hand?

Using the Talking Stick – Some Pointers;

  • We listen deeply. No sitting there, wondering how to reply. We don’t get to speak till it’s our turn so, instead, we listen to whatever is being said with our full attention.
  • We practice patience. We certainly don’t talk over someone, we wait quietly, listening to the other’s words, their tone of voice and meanings.
  • Conversation will slow. It will deepen. If you’re in a conversation and you spend most of your time thinking about what you’re going to say in reply you’re certainly not listening. If you’re not listening, what might you miss? Slow down. Breathe deeply. Pay attention.
  • Set an agreed talking time (preferably with a gentle alarm/tone/alert) to remind us that our turn is coming to an end. Suggested time for each person is 10-minutes to start but you can adjust this up or down as you become familiar with the practice and settle in.

There’s no need to go out and buy an actual talking stick. You could use a small branch you find fallen off a tree. Any basic object will do – a feather, a stone, a pencil or a paperweight. The point is that the stick gives the person holding it the POWER to speak and to be heard.

What do we talk about?

It’s totally down to you and yours. Perhaps, to set the scene, you could light some candles, switch off all electric gadgets and become quiet.

There’s only one ground rule: You can’t speak unless you’re holding the talking stick.

You could think about having a talking stick session without any pre-agreed topic. A freestyle session, if you like. Or, you might like to decide in advance to share thoughts about your friendships, love, grief, faith, science, your childhood, God, aliens, what you’re scared of, where you come from, your career, who has hurt you, who you admire, who you can’t forgive or anything else that you wish.

Play with the subjects and talk about whatever is important to you.

The talking stick will help you to understand more about the people in your life and you will be understood. You will be heard and you will listen. Your relationships will deepen.

What are you waiting for?


Sometimes we need to talk with a professional, especially if we’re struggling with mental health issues. If you need help with mental health challenges that arise, big or small please visit this article at BetterHelp.com. They can custom-match you to a therapist to help you navigate your way to a healthier, happier you.


6 comments

  1. Good idea. We definitely need more active listening, more ability to consider other peoples words. Too many times, I find myself not really listening but finding ways to jump into the conversation, thinking about what I will say.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Real Mike Jones and commented:

    Open and honest communication is so important in any type of relationship, whether work or personal.
    There are some excellent points here and maybe lockdown is exactly the right time to have some real conversations

    Liked by 1 person

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