Talking Stick Communication – Don Sardella (UTS’80)


As I am studying my way through Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s most recently released book “The 3rd Alternative – Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems”, I have been reawakened to the power and the practical value of effective, empathic listening via the Talking Stick Communication, so well taught and demonstrated by Dr. Covey.


For those not yet familiar with this principle and practice, I invite you to watch the 3 minute-ish video clip below:


Stephen R. Covey: Indian Talking Stick


It is my 2012 resolution and commitment to work to better master/contribute/develop this skill, for the greater/greatest good – I invite us all to consider it for ourselves and what positive ramifications might be possible.


If you listen to the video clip, please let me know what you think and how I/we might make it the most relevant and helpful for our lives and our larger purposes together – I am very interested to sincerely partner on these practices.


In Dr. Covey’s own words, from “The 3rd Alternative – Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems”.


While he is writing here about families, I think it applies everywhere.


From page 172 and 173


“The way to heal divisions in your own family is to seek out your loved ones and practice Talking Stick Communication with them. Although quarrels involve more than one person, it takes only one person to start the healing process. It’s the absolute pre-requisite to 3rd Alternative solutions to problems.


It works like this. I go up to you and say, “You’ve got the Talking Stick.” That means I can’t say anything except to restate your position. I can ask a question to make sure I understand your point, but I can’t make my own point, I can’t agree, and I can’t disagree. All I can do is communicate your point back to you until you feel understood. Then you pass the Talking Stick to me. Now it’s my turn, and you are quiet and you listen with empathy until I feel understood. Then I pass it back to you.


Talking Stick Communication takes time, but I guarantee it will save endless time and stress in your family life. People who have been stubbornly divided for years open up to each other. Deep animosities dissolve in tears as family members embrace one another again.


Unfortunately, Talking Stick Communication is rare.”


From page 179


“In our fix-it, cut-to-the-chase, problem solving culture, we lose a great deal of perspective because we have no patience for each other’s stories, the complex story of struggle, suffering, loss and triumph that is unique to each of us. We think we already know it all. Experts say, “One of the greatest difficulties in building relationships is that we cannot always see clearly or completely within the heart, mind, and experience of another person. This is especially problematic in marriage where, based on years (or sometimes just months) of experience, we think we know our partners completely.” As a result, we dismiss, avoid, and close our ears to each other’s stories. Instead of listening to each other, we isolate ourselves and our children from conflict. The result is an “empathy deficit.”


What do you think? Best love to you all, as we approach the Heart of the Holiday Season – Don

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