This exercise in empathic communication is sometimes used in a "Salon". Well known in European and early American society, the "Salon" practice dates back to Antiquity and is still widely used . It is also called the "Talking Stick Ritual" by indigenous people"around the world" who sit to discuss important ideas.
The idea of "salon" and structured exchanges is enjoying a revival - from middle-America to corporate bootcamps. The technique allows people to trigger and mirror streams of thought for one another and to create new syntheses from divergent views; it is an empowering tool in that it can allow you understand several other reasoning processes, solutions and resources. Empathic thinkung encourages listening to others with the creative intent of reaching a greater depth in one's own understanding.
The French word salon (latin sala) means a "sitting room" but the dynamic idea behind the word means sitting around and communicating in depth - and with rules. Think of great and earnest philosophical meetings through history or sitting around a campfire on a mellow late summer night to recognize how one idea will bring another. Get a nice glass of wine, a cool beer or a mug of herb tea and get the the bottom of a local or personal problem.
Bringing ideas from depth involves "listening" open-mindedly. The rules allow people to express themselves without the fear of being interrupted, judged or negated in some sense. The exercise involves orchestrating a totally receptive communication context and mood.
Empathic thinking means "seek to understand before seeking to be understood". Empathy is "walking a mile in the other's shoes" as a basis for understanding; it is a quality and a power. Empathic thinking is best used in small groups; there is a variation called "Ear of the Jaguar" for large ones.
*The talking stick is a symbol which gives the person holding it the power to speak or to express him/herself within the above mentionned context and to receive respectful audience.
"Still waters run deep." say wisdom books. Team members who have difficulty communicating might have something creative to contribute. Just because they with a glib word can dominate doesn't mean they're offering depth. Set the rules -times, number of rounds to be played and expectations; write down your own avenues for creative get participant buy-in.
Modify the exercice so that the talking stick is a tool for larger numbers of participants. During a business meeting, for example, set rules wherein any participant could at any time grab the talking stick to immediately -stop time - and receive the empathy and respect that will allow him/her to reach the end of a thought.