7Habits for Families

The Talking Stick: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Kids can have a hard time talking about their feelings. Sometimes they don't know what to say or how to say it. Kids (and adults too) have difficulty discerning that their feelings are connected to what is happening around them. The Talking Stick exercise is a great way to help all members of a family (or organization) to sort out feelings that are coming to the surface. Validating feelings are important. If feelings are not openingly talked about in a respectful way, then they may come out in challenging ways such as anger, aggression, hyperness and, coming across to others as ‘over emotional’. 


We might not have all the answers but the comfort lies in the sharing. We don’t have to feel the need to ‘fix’ everything. This exercise is a non-judgmental way of talking about things of importance. 


Here are some simple guidelines for a Talking Stick exercise:

  1. Sit in a circle (if just 2 people, then sitting face to face).
  2. Choose an object for the talking stick. This object will be passed to whoever is talking.
  3. Only the person holding the talking stick gets to talk, everyone else must listen without interruption (even if you disagree) until that person is finished talking.
  4. The talking stick object is passed around clockwise.
  5. The talking stick can go around the circle as many times as wanted/needed.
  6. The circle is respectful of everyone as individuals no matter age & what they have to say.
  7. A person may pass the stick without sharing. The next time around, they might be ready to share. Be patient & kind to one another.

            Adapted by M.Schlemko From: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey