One of the most successful approaches to solving disputes and reducing stress comes from the Native American aphorism: “Before we can truly understand another person, we must walk a mile in that person’s moccasins.” Before we can walk in another person’s moccasins, we must first take off our own. This means to perceive as with the other person’s eyes, hearing, mind, and spirit.
Misunderstandings between people cause much stress. That’s because one of the deepest desires of humans is to be understood. But how do you do it? The “Talking Stick” is one approach. One reason for its success in solving disputes and problems is that it uses something tangible. The “stick” can be a spoon, a stuffed animal, or any object that serves as something that can be held and passed from one person to another.
When meeting to solve a dispute, the Talking Stick is present. Only the person holding the stick is permitted to speak. As long as you have the Talking Stick, you alone may speak until you are satisfied that you are understood.
Remember that to be understood does not mean to agree.
The procedure is that others are not permitted to make their own points, argue, agree or disagree. All they may do is try to understand you and articulate that understanding. They may have to restate your point to make sure you feel understood, or you may just simply feel that others understand. If your desire to feel understood is not satisfied, stress levels rise and egos and misunderstandings interfere with progress.
As soon as you feel understood, it is your obligation to pass the Talking Stick to the next person. As that person shares, you have to listen, re-state, and empathize until that person believes he or she is understood.
Using this approach, all parties are responsible for one hundred percent of the communication—both speaking and listening.
Once each of the parties feels understood, an amazing thing happens. The focus naturally shifts to problem solving. Negative energy and stress decrease, ill feelings evaporate, mutual respect grows, and people become creative.