Walking and Talking Side by Side
How to help us communicate openly and constructively
I was in a café yesterday writing up some notes. Near me were two people sitting at a small table opposite one another. From their similarity of face and manner, I would guess they were related, perhaps mother and daughter. They had bought coffee and cake and clearly wished to enjoy a treat. What struck me, though, is that they were silent. Long minutes went by without them exchanging a word.
This is not to say there is anything wrong with silence. With the constant chatter of radio, television and social media, it is arguable we need to value silence more. It is also possible that they had reached that point of familiarity when they could just be without having to talk. I sensed, however, that they were not comfortable with the silence and could not find anything to say even if they wanted to.
It occurred to me how much more at ease they might be if they were walking side by side, preferably somewhere beautiful that would lift the spirit, helping them feel calmer and less self-conscious. They might find themselves talking in an unforced, natural way about this and that, gradually focusing on joint areas of interest or concern without strain.
This could equally apply to communication in the workplace. How could we best manage that tricky conversation with a colleague which we have been putting off for weeks? Walking and talking side by side might be the answer. The advantages would be that we feel on an equal footing while our blood pressure and nervous tension would be lowered through the regular rhythm of walking. We might then find we can talk openly and honestly with a reduced fear of offending or being offended.
In the same way, talking through an idea or project could benefit from the freer, less constrained trail of thinking that walking induces.
So, next time you have a challenging issue to sort out with a colleague, why not try and resolve it by walking and talking side by side in surroundings that soothe the troubled mind.