Negotiating With Your Talking Stick

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

 Here’s an idea enhancing your listening skills to become a more productive negotiator. Reading time: 2:24.

           They glared at each other sitting across the table in an intense negotiating session.  Their screaming match still echoing in their ears from the last time these two negotiators met.

Orchestra Conductor Wields his Baton

Orchestra Conductor Wields his Baton

Baton Twirling

Baton Twirling

        Finally one of the negotiators broke his stare, reached down and placed a long, slender, sheathed  object on the table. The opposing negotiator winced and pushed himself back from the table at what he thought could have been some type of weapon.

        “Relax,” smiled the negotiator as he slowly unsheathed his curiosity object.

        No it wasn’t a knife. Or a mini sword. It was a two-foot long stick that looked more like an orchestra conductor’s baton than a baton twirler’s instrument of choice.

        It was a Talking Stick.

       “No, it’s not a weapon,” smiled the negotiator as he methodically placed the carved wooden staff that looked like a mini-totem pole on the table between them. “It’s a tool to help us both listen better to each other so that we can both get what we need out of our negotiating.”

      The opposing negotiator pulled himself closer to the table and leaned in and said: “Well, now we are getting somewhere. How does this tool work?”

       The negotiator then formally introduced The Talking Stick to his fellow negotiator. “The person holding The Talking Stick holds the floor, ” the first negotiator said. “He or she speaks and everyone else must listen until he or she decides to give The Talking Stick to the another person.”

         The second negotiator was intrigued. “You know I have heard of The Talking Stick before. Didn’t the native American Indians use a Talking Stick in their meetings,” the second negotiator asked? “Yes, yes,” said the first negotiator. “One of my mentors from a lot of years ago gave me this Talking Stick,” said the first negotiator, “and I thought it might be of some utility to us today.”



           Passing The Talking Stick around, much like the peace pipe, focuses a group’s attention onto each person in the group–one individual at a time. The focus on personally listening to another person is a critical relationship builder that sets the stage for the most effective negotiations, the first negotiator explained and then handed The Talking Stick to his opposing negotiator.

        “You can speak for as long as you want without any interruption, without any reprisal, without any humiliation from me or anyone else,” the first negotiator said, ceremoniously handing  The Talking Stick to his opposing negotiator . “Then when you’re ready please hand The Talking Stick back to me.”

       The first negotiator surrendered the floor. He stopped talking. Deliberately. And he started listening. Determinedly.

The Talking Stick Forces & Focuses Listening

       The Talking Stick, used literally or figuratively, is a critical tool in the most effective negotiator’s hands. The Talking Stick forces the negotiators to listen carefully to each other; to evaluate what is and is not being said, and to discover latent common ground where new opportunities to work with each other can be systematically uncovered and bonds of leadership woven with a sense of integrity to result in the way author J. Thomas Wren defines leadership in his book: The Leaders Companion:

“Leadership is an interactive process in which leaders and followers engage
in MUTUAL interaction in a complex environment to achieve mutual goals.”

            So the next time you’re in a negotiation, stick it to ‘em.  With your Talking Stick.

 Today’s ImproveMINT

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