Conflict. Most of us hate it, some of us go out of our way to avoid it, often making situations worse. In Talking Stick, Beyer offers a new perspective to deal with conflict, one in which we seek to restore harmony and deeper connections to one another.

Beyer recommends that we step away from a mode in which blame must be assigned, and punishment meted out and instead approach to conflict as an opportunity to learn something new. The practice is, essentially, that whomever holds the 'talking stick' gets to talk: there are no interruptions, no questions, no challenges, and no comments. Each person is offered the opportunity to speak openly and honestly, knowing they are being heard as deeply as the listener can manage. Of course, it's not quite that simple, but Beyer shares many stories from his work as a peacemaker and provides a number of exercises. This includes how to create a new talking stick circle, ceremonial ways to begin each circle, and tools to ensure the telling of complete stories in cases of conflict. Beyer discusses the nature of apology, forgiveness, and the urge for revenge, and he explores the spiritual challenges faced by those who walk the peace path.

Conflict is a valuable source of information and if we can avoid being polarized, our growth can be enormous.

(Much of what is presented here is similar to Susan Scott's FIERCE methodology (Fierce Conversations) , and I offer that recommendation to readers looking for more in this same vein but in a workplace setting.)


~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Stephan V. Beyer
Bear & Co, 2016
pp. 182, $16