Communication & The Talking Stick!

Have you ever given thought as to how you communicate?  Do you think before you talk or do your emotions get the better of you causing you to talk before you think?  

Our process of communicating goes back to when we were young – how we were taught, what we observed and what we were told we could and could not talk about.  As a result when we communicate today we are on automatic pilot and replicate what we learned. 

There are many factors that contribute to the process of poor communication — passivity, confrontational, irrational, tone of voice.  And even more frustrating is when your spouse, significant other or your children have selective hearing. Unfortunately, the dynamics of the family plays a major role causing many issues and in some instances major conflicts.  But it can be avoided. 

Having Been the Founder and Chairman of the Family Business Council of Greater New York, a not for profit educational resource organization for family business owners, I found communication or lack of, was one of the biggest problems family business owners face.  Good communication was hard to find.  It was more like……he said, she said or they said.  

During one of our monthly meetings our guest speaker walked up to the podium holding a beautifully hand carved stick.  After his opening remarks he raised the hand holding this appendage.  This is a “talking stick,” he said as he waved it carefully in front of the attendees. He explained the talking stick a stick was used by American Indian tribes to designate who had the right to speak during Councils.  When the leader of the Council was finished talking he would pass the stick to the next individual waiting their turn.  The “talking stick” doesn’t have to be anything fancy he told us  – although this stick was a beautifully hand carved from Viet Nam – some Indian Tribes used a feather, but it can be something as ordinary as a pen or pencil.  He passed it around giving everyone a chance to briefly make their voice heard.

This is a simple and a fun way to improve communication with family members.  But there are other ways as well.  Observe how you communicate and how you want to be heard. Be aware of your emotions, your reaction to others and don’t judge.  Good communication can mean making change and giving up some control.  We don’t always have to be right, it’s ok to agree to disagree. 

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