The Power of the Talking Stick

Last week I had held my first workshop for women who want to set up their own business.  It was both exciting and terrifying.  The working title of the workshop is “Discover the Business Within You”.

Only 15% of businesses in the UK are majority-owned by women,  compared with 28% in the US.  If we were to achieve the US levels of female start-ups on our home soil then there would be 150, 000 new businesses in the UK – which could end the recession!  The objective of the workshop was to demonstrate to women that despite their (all too common) lack of self-confidence and diminished sense of self-worth they can become entrepreneurs and express themselves authentically through business.  The reviews of the inaugural workshop were encouraging and I am developing the concept until I am satisfied that I have created a profound and motivating day’s program.

On the day, I was hoping for people to connect with themselves as well as with others and to talk from their hearts.  It is a rare treat for women with dependent children to spend a day contemplating what they might do with their lives.  The plan was to reach a crescendo by the end of the day of I do believe I can do it!  I will do it! and This is what I need to do next!  I know that we achieved perhaps the former two points for 90% of the delegates but I am wondering whether the latter should be tackled in a second workshop.

As we only had one day, the techniques I employed were designed to fast-track the learning experience.  One such technique was to use an Indian Talking Stick in a group discussion set up to gain insight into how people were feeling at the end of the day.  As I revealed the elk hide and felt covered talking stick dangling with feather pendants made by Apache women to the room of open-mouthed delegates, I learned a memorable lesson myself – when introducing anything new to an audience, rehearse your story thoroughly and be 100% confident!

A talking stick is a symbol of open and genuine communication. In the words of the late and great Stephen Covey, “It is the most powerful communication technique I have ever found.”  Follow this to hear his take on it:

The simple technique means that whoever is holding the talking stick has the opportunity to speak without interruption and up until the point when they feel fully understood.  When you are given a tool, which allows you to say what is truly on your mind, it is a significant moment.  Those listening have to hear what is said without judgment.  Normally when we listen, we prepare a response in our head; make assumptions about what the other person is going to say next and interrupt, more often than not, in order to be heard. Let’s face it – it is difficult to re-learn the art of effective communication.  A talking stick enables conscious communication, which slices through the drivel and pretensions in order to get to the heart of the matter.

There is nothing more important in life than being able to communicate – to say how you feel and to be heard.  Without effective communication, how can anyone create anything that is right for them, let alone a business?  I urge you to try the talking stick method and then observe its impact on your conversation both at home and in your business. (If you would rather not go down the authentic route and purchase your own feather and felt covered stick, the great news is that Steven Covey says you can choose any object to represent the ‘talking stick’.  A hat, a book or banana would do!)

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