Holding walking meetings is a fairly simple thing. But the small act has been revolutionary for Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek.
“I have built so many meaningful relationships and had so many impactful conversations while walking and talking that it probably counts as one of my biggest life hacks,” the tech exec tweeted Wednesday.
Ek’s comments were in response to a recent New York Times piece that extols the benefits of walking and talking—for business reasons or for personal ones.
Conversations on foot seemingly “flow more easily,” as if steps set “the tempo for our speech,” writes the Times’ Jancee Dunn.
Plus, they’re less awkward, as talkers are expected to look forward most of the time, as opposed to at one another, she notes.
The superlative nature of on-foot conversations may seem subjective, but there’s science to back it up. Walk-and-talk career coaching in a nature-based setting can buffer burnout symptoms and improve mental health, all while providing a pleasant and even restorative experience, according to a 2021 article in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
Another bonus: exposure to sunlight, which can improve mood in those with depression, the authors noted.
Researchers divided 40 participants—mostly females, all of whom complained of burn-out and stress—into two groups. One received career coaching on nature walks; the other received career coaching in a traditional setting. They looked for improvements in areas like burnout, “bore-out,” distress, concentration problems, work pleasure and engagement, hope, and mindfulness.
Those who received traditional coaching improved somewhat in some areas midway through the program. But those improvements began reversing themselves by the end, leaving no lasting positive benefit, the authors found.
Those who received nature-based walk-and-talk coaching, however, showed continued improvement in most domains—to some extent midway through the program, and to an even greater extent by the end of it.
That such positive outcomes occurred during autumn and winter is notable, the authors wrote, adding that results “may be even more pronounced in seasons with more sunshine and more green foliage.”
Conversation starters for walks on the go
Looking to launch your own walk-and-talks at work, but unsure of where to start? Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters,” was interviewed for the Times piece, and offered up the following themes:
Wanderings: Choose a neighborhood, park, or area you’ve never explored and simply wander together. “Talk about the things that don’t normally come up in everyday life,” Parker suggested.
Memories: Discuss key life memories the other person may not be aware of.
Struggles: Each walker can share something they’ve been struggling with—no advice, no judgment, “just deep listening,” Parker advised.
No plan in particular: There’s no need for intense planning for these things, according to Parker. Instead of meeting over lunch or at a bar after work, simply switch the venue to nature and get moving.
It’s not a theme—but Parker’s favorite conversation starter is as follows: “Have you ever had a nemesis? Why do you think they got so under your skin?”
“This often leads to passionate, quite hilarious conversation,” she said, adding that the question is “slightly transgressive, slightly naughty.”