Diffusing Anger With Walk-And-Talks

Here’s a great relationship “exercise”: When you have something intense to talk about with your partner, lace up some good, supportive shoes and head out together for a walk. Keep a pace that’s brisk but comfortable for both of you.

Often, when we have intense conversations, we’re cleaning up after dinner or we’re in our bedroom at night.  One partner may bring up a challenging topic because he or she has already been triggered.  If not, bringing up the topic may upset the other partner first.  Either way, confined spaces can often intensify difficult feelings as they bounce off the walls.

Here’s the invitation:  Take it outside.  No, not in the sense of a barroom brawl that moves to the alleyway.  I mean turn your talk into a walk-and-talk.  Ideally, when you know you want to bring up an important subject, request a walk-and-talk date with you partner.  Other times, if you find yourselves beginning to argue or getting upset as you talk, step back and suggest, “Why don’t we walk while we talk about this?”

Humans evolved walking an average of 12 miles a day and our brains function better when we’re walking. Both the cross-lateral movement and the deeper breathing activate our parasympathetic, or “self-soothing,” nervous system.  This counteracts the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response to intense conversations and helps us approach things more peacefully.

Three other benefits of walking while talking with your partner:

  1. The obvious: you’re getting a little exercise while connecting with your mate.  It’s the ultimate in multi-tasking.
  2. You can both take time to consider your words. As you walk, pauses and silences are less awkward or upsetting than they are when you’re sitting or standing still indoors.  As a result, the conversation will turn out far better.
  3. Our natural self-consciousness can be helpful at inhibiting the not-so-smart things people often say when they’re upset.  Interestingly, we’re often better behaved toward our mates when strangers can see or hear us than in the privacy of our own homes.

Try a walk-and-talk. May all your conversations be nourishing and productive.


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