03/09/2012 06:34 pm ET Updated May 09, 2012

How to Stop Your Discussions From Turning Into Arguments

Often I am asked what I think are the key elements in making a marriage last. There are of course many answers that I give, depending on who is asking. One quality that I always recommend to have in spades is good listening skills. In many floundering relationships, that often seems to be one of the key elements that is missing. In these circumstances, I frequently suggest the talking stick technique. The talking stick is used in many Native American traditions when a council is called. It allows all council members to present their point of view as the talking stick is passed from person to person, and only the person holding the stick is actually allowed to talk. Everyone else has to listen carefully to what the person with the stick is saying and cannot interrupt. Only when they are given the stick can they speak. In this way, Native American children are taught to listen from age three and also are taught to respect other people's perspectives, even if they don't agree with them.

If you ever talk over each other, if your discussions have a tendency to turn into arguments or if you feel you are not being heard, then the talking stick is an excellent way to communicate and can save enormous amounts of time, energy and heartache within your relationship.

Here's how to do it: Find a sacred object that can act as your talking stick. Whoever is holding the stick speaks, and the other person has to listen carefully. When the person with the stick is finished (The speaker decides when that is), she gives the stick to the person who has been patiently listening. This person then has the opportunity to speak uninterrupted. Again when the speaker decides that he has finished, he hands the stick back to the first person. The stick goes back and forth until you have each spoken and listened in turn.

If you have problems listening -- then use the talking stick method, as it enables you both to be heard. This method can save a lot of marriages, including yours!

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