During the weekend of October 24-26, I attended the annual conference of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) in Vancouver. I was fortunate to be accepted as a speaker and received a gift which upon returning home, I opened to find a talking stick. It is a beautiful piece of art with feathers tied to an end with a leather thong. For those unfamiliar with the talking stick, many indigenous American cultures use this tool when a group of people are meeting to discuss…..well, just about anything. The stick is passed around and when it is in a person’s grasp, only he or she may speak. There can be no interruptions, side-talk or other distractions. There is one person who speaks and the role of all others is to listen. This process – of providing space for people to express themselves without interruption – is essential to any dispute resolution process – be it couples therapy, divorce mediation or a larger group process. I always tell people who sit in my office – so full of anxiety about the specter of conflict that hovers in the room – that I will keep the other from interrupting so that each has a space to speak. I have not hesitated to get up in between people if the sparks start to fly. “You can do this – you have done this – quite well on your own. You don’t need to pay me to do this in my office. My role here is to keep this place safe, so if you are listening to what the other is saying and you believe it is not accurate or you need to defend yourself, please hold it and you will have your opportunity.” This rule, together with a chiding reminder that conflict is made safer and resolvable when each person talks about their own experience, helps move a process which initially may seem frightening or overwhelming to a platform of acceptance.