Need to talk? Then take a walk

Stephania Piazzalunga is a psychotherapist working in Italy and a great advocate for the curative power of walking. She says that it is when we walk that our inner thoughts are revealed to us via a sort of meditation in motion.

Piazzalunga believes that walking in silence or quiet contemplation is one of the most natural and original forms of self-help, with the mere act of moving encouraging an improved sense of well-being and self-esteem.

Walking also has a role to play in improving communications and is the ideal activity to do while having those difficult conversations.

Psychiatry professor Albert Scheflin said that the way we hold, carry, and orient our bodies—convey multiple nonverbal messages. He uses two categories, or his term ’frames’ to explain his theory.

The Vis-à-Vis frame. Is when two people greet and address each other in a face-to-face position.  The vis-à-vis frame is a pre-requisite for making eye contact.

The Side-by-Side frame. Often, this is a communication choice, especially amongst men. It precludes eye contact.

When women talk with other women, as well as men, they orient themselves toward the other and tend to use the vis-à-vis frame, maintaining eye contact. According to Deborah Tannen, women also display more general immediacy behaviours than men, such as leaning forward, nodding the head, smiling, and touching. The vis-à-vis frame enhances and encourages more eye contact, which creates more bonding and connection. It keeps people focused on each other.

Men favour the side-by-side frame as direct eye contact can be construed as challenging amongst men; a face-to-face frame is a more competitive posture and stance.

When a couple needs to have a tricky conversation with one another, they will do well to take a walk together while talking. Due to the side-by-side frame, things can be said without sounding threatening or confrontational that might have been heard as more alarming or inflaming in a face to face frame.

Later, they may be able to communicate on a deeper level with greater mutual understanding in a face to face frame where they are more able to mutually ‘read’ each others micro-expressions.

Anthropologist Helen Fisher suggests ways to improve men and women’s communications. In Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray, she writes, ‘A woman involved in a heterosexual relationship should probably adopt at least one nonverbal, side-by-side leisure activity that her spouse enjoys, whereas men could improve their home lives if they took time out to sit face-to-face with their mate to engage in talk and active listening.’ 

To find out more fascinating insights from Helen Fisher you can click here to buy her book now from Amazon UK





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