The Restorative Justice Talking Piece – tangible and physical, abstract and soulful.

From Stephen Covey – the 8th Habit:

(The Talking Piece) is one of the most powerful communication tools I’ve ever seen, because, while it is tangible and physical, it embodies a concept that is powerfully synergistic.  This Talking Stick represents how people with differences can come to understand one another . . . speak, until you are satisfied that you are understood . . . pass the Talking Stick to the next person and then work to make him feel understood.  Once each of the parties feels understood an amazing thing usually happens.  Negative energy dissipates, contentions evaporate, mutual respect grows, and people become creative.  New ideas emerge.  (page 197)

I used the above quote on a little pamplet I made for student leaders.  Yesterday I pulled it out to add the quote to a powerpoint I was working on.  The evening before I was in a really powerful transformative Circle.  As I looked at the quote again I realized how powerful the talking piece really is.

It’s a core element of a Circle, with a capital C, Circle, in my opinion.  I know we can seat people in a circle facing each other, but Kay Pranis in all three of her books, lists the talking piece as an element of a Restorative Justice Circle.

The ‘talking piece’ is physical as Covey points out.  There is also so much that is invisible about a talking piece.  The talking piece signifies equality and respect.  Everyone will get the opportunity to hold the piece.  People are invited to share equally, what a person shares or if they share is at their own discresion.  The invitation is extended equally.

Respect is embodied in a talking piece, you have people giving witness to your words when you have it.  There is a responsibility an obligation to select wise words.  I often call it using our “wisest words”, when we speak from the heart.

I had a friend get in the closet of his office and ask me if he was still there.  He was making the point to me that we live in a world of things we can see and things we cannot see.

My recent reading and TED talk watching has be engaged in the brain.  The inner core, where language does not exist, sort of the unseen.  The talking piece is like this tangible and physical and at the same time abstract.

A favorite talking piece is pictured.  It was a gift from a teacher.  Day two of a training I facilitated included teachers each taking a piece of Circle keeping and co-keeping the Circle.  The workshop student/teacher brought a the talking piece shown and explained:

Home is where your heart is.  You are safe at home, you are safe in Circle.  You can speak from the heart in Circle.

The teacher did mission work in Africa, helping a community heal from civil war.  Someone in the villiage made the little carved huts.  While the villiage was empty as a result of war, the trees grew in.  Instead of wasting the resource they wood was used for carvings.

This is one of my favorite talking pieces.