Sunday, 22 January 2012

Walking and talking

There seems to be consensus, particularly in the world of business and politics that walking and talking together is beneficial. The reasons for this are many.

Conversations between immobile people tend to get Confrontational

People will stick to their viewpoint if they are physically stuck in a particular location. Seating arrangements frequently establish power hierarchies (for eg: a person sitting at the head of a table invariably ends up dominating the conversation).

People in motion often synchronize their actions

Walking together establishes a mutual rhythmic pattern which leads to greater understanding and agreement.


Reduced eye contact diffuses emotional intensity

Walking alongside another person reduces the chances of direct visual contact. Body language is a powerful indicator of emotional response.  When you see the body language that naturally occurs in intense, serious conversations – eye-rolling, sighing, squirming, shaking head, looking down, looking away, glaring – your brain will naturally want to mirror what it sees. That’s part of the biology that escalates communication from conversation to conflict.

Exercise release endorphins

These hormones elevate a person’s mood and reduce the level of stress-inducing serotonin in the bloodstream. A walk dissipates the anxious energy that is part and parcel of talking about things that matter with people that matter.

There are many examples from history of  exceptional leaders who discoursed while walking. Prominent examples from religion include Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha. Intellectual heavyweights like Plato and Aristotle conversed with their students while in motion. 

Walking and talking  is most effective when done in natural surroundings. Open, green spaces enable us to see things from different perspectives.

Some of the most enjoyable conversations are had while taking a walk with someone. I've noticed that I enjoy walking with MWNN precisely because we talk - a lot - as we walk.