Walking Together, the virtual way

In our previous blog post, we talked about how we can keep connected while social distancing.  One of the suggestions was to take your online meeting outside.  In this post, we are going to build on this by introducing you to one of the most powerful tools we use to reach a deeper connection in a very short space of time while helping you clarify some actions you can take personally through our current crisis.  We use it in our development programmes, team meetings, events etc and it usually evokes a strong feeling of being heard and improves our ability to listen to others well.  The tool is the Dialogue Walk – the virtual way.

Of course, a Dialogue Walk is usually carried out in person, side by side.  This might be possible while maintaining the recommended distance between you both, but it can also be adapted so you can walk together virtually through your phone.

Simply put, a dialogue walk is a process where two individuals take the time for a walk where they commit to the intention to share and listen deeply for a longer-than-usual amount of time.  The walk can be on any topic: for the purpose of this post it will be about how we might individually and collectively be responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

You might want to go on your walk with a team mate, stakeholder or partner, family member or neighbour: anyone you’d like to stay in touch with and perhaps get to know a little better.  So once you have a partner:

  • Make a date in your diary.  You’ll need around 30 mins but you can make it longer if you both have time.
  • Agree your tech of choice: I’d recommend an audio only call but with the capacity to switch to video at certain points if you can e.g. WhatsApp, FaceTime, Messenger, other video call apps available.   And if possible, use earphones with a mic so you can go hands-free. 
  • The emphasis is as much on the listening role as the speaking role. We have created a Dialogue Walk card, which shows the levels of listening and which provides you with some suggested guidance around how to do a Dialogue Walk. You can download it for free in our Resources section on the website.
  • You can agree any questions you’d like depending on your relationship with the person and what your intention of the dialogue walk is – choosing 3 or 4 is probably enough.  Here are some suggestions that might be helpful with a COVID-19 focus:
    • Briefly share what’s going on for you in response to the COVID-19 crisis e.g. how work and personal situations are affected
    • When have you faced significant new challenges in the past, and what helped you cope with them?
    • Describe your best team experiences. How do they differ from your other team experiences?
    • In order to be successful in your current role (work or personal), what do you need to let go of and what do you need to learn? What capabilities do you need to develop?
    • How might you help your team develop? What do you need from your team, and what does your team need from you?
    • Nine to twelve months from now, what criteria will you use to assess whether you were successful?
  • Go for your walk in a way that works for you: whether it is a stroll or roll along the street, around the house or in the garden.
  • Each person should take a minimum of 10 minutes each to share only what you feel comfortable sharing.
  • The person listening should listen uninterrupted while the other speaks.  You can nod, make encouraging noises, make sure your partner doesn’t walk out into traffic when fully immersed etc but this part is really important so you, as the listen, don’t divert the conversation towards things you might be interested in rather than what your partner may want to say.
  • At the end of each person speaking, take a quiet moment to notice where you are and if you are drawn to anything in the landscape.  This can be a good time to switch on your cameras to show each other where you are physically.  Try not to get drawn into conversation until both people have had their time to speak.
  • Take the remaining time to talk together about what came up for you.
  • Finish with one question or action you are taking from the conversation.
  • Thank each other for your company.

When the pull to respond to immediate needs is as strong as it is right now, taking a short period of time out to slow down and reflect can do wonders.  It can give yourself and another person the space to reflect and decide on a wiser course of action.  And it can help use this time apart to strengthen your relationships for what may come in the next weeks and months.

Please have a look at our new programme ‘One Thing at a Time’.

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