Parents of adolescents and teens know this better than anyone: the best place for a neutral, non-threatening heart-to-heart is…the car. Think about it: enclosed space but no eye contact, no discomfort with long pauses, plenty of scenery to look at while processing responses. And it works even better when it’s dark.
But what if the person you’d like to connect with doesn’t naturally spend car time with you? Another relative, perhaps, or a friend, or a co-worker. I would like to propose an excellent substitute to the car for close, productive conversation: the walk.
I recently rediscovered this on the walking tour I organized for the Mate and me with my 80-something parents (plus another Senior friend) in Ireland. The #2 purpose of the trip: seeing Ireland. The #1 purpose: talking. And I was not disappointed.
Think about it. As in the car, while walking, your eyes are generally forward. No intense eye contact as when sitting at a dining table. No awkwardness with long pauses (especially going uphill when you need your breath!). Plenty of scenery and time to process responses. And even better (unlike in a car), plenty of shared joy in that scenery, which serves as a magic carpet to whisk you over any emotional toughness in the conversation.
Most of our conversation, over the course of six days and sixty miles of hill-walking (around the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in Southwest Ireland, in case you’re curious), was light. But as it happened, I did have some deeper, more difficult relationship issues to discuss with my dad. And the rhythm of our steps, the green hills, the shared forward movement–all contributed to the depth of that conversation, removing the difficulty.
But why go to Ireland? Why go anywhere further than around the block, through the park, over to your favorite cafe…on foot? Invite someone. Go somewhere that takes an hour or so. Let your feet and the scenery carry you past the difficulty and into the depth.
Repeat as necessary. I intend to.