Stories around our Supportive Practices
40 Inspiring Minutes
What a peculiar sensation.
Talking. Uninterruptedly. For 15 minutes.
Being listened to. Silently. For 15 minutes.
Wondering how I should start. What to tell. To highlight. To omit. Scanning my
conversation partner for cues of what kind of person he might be. His likes. His
dislikes. Something – Anything I could build my conversation around.
For the first unsure minute.
Deciding to start talking about the basics. My background. My present. Noteworthy
events and experiences in between. Wondering whether this conversation will end
up being just a run through of my CV. Impersonal. Superficial. Barely scratching the
surface. For the first doubtful minute.
Wondering whether I am being rude. Arrogant. Self-involved. Not interested in my
conversation partner by talking uninterruptedly. Reminding myself that that’s the
instructions we’ve been given. For the first 2 insecure minutes.
Opening up about my beliefs and opinions. Honestly. Personally. Relating them to
the workshop we’ve attended before. The only thing connecting us. So far. For the
first 2 remote minutes.
Looking for a sign of approval. acknowledgement. Some sort of encouragement to
keep going. For the first 3 uneasy minutes.
Then, a nod. A quiet hum. A smile. A sharp exhale. Maybe the wish to reply? To
agree? Or to contribute? Reminding myself that that’s the instructions we were
given. For the next more courageous minutes.
Feeling more encouraged. More relaxed. I’m taking in my surroundings. The sound
of soft rain, leaving the pavement glistening. The buildings of the Old Town reflected
in it. I’m letting my mind wander. Speaking my mind out loud. Feeling enabled.
Allowed. Being given the permission to talk. Without being criticised, questioned,
added to or agreed with. For the next unidentified number of minutes.
Suddenly, a ring. The timer. My 15 minutes are over. The time has gone by
unexpectedly quickly. I became lost in my own thoughts, allowing myself to wander,
having the space to reflect and explore the questions we were given. All with a silent
listener walking by my side.
Now it’s his turn. The following 15 minutes begin very differently from the past ones.
Discomfort replaced by curiosity. Apprehensiveness replaced by anticipation.
For the next very anticipated minute, I am listening to an unfamiliar voice.
For the following fascinating minutes, I am astounded by his stories, how they
relate to me, building on my ideas, sharing in frustrations, aspirations and hope.
For the last eye-opening minutes, I am still listening quietly.
But now to a familiar voice.
What is this peculiar conversation I have found myself in? Forbidden to interrupt and
on the other side being given the permission to talk without interruption.
It describes one of my first experiences of trialling Dialogue Walks. With the
instruction to each talk for 15 minutes, you go on a walk with a stranger (or someone
you don’t know well). The only other guide provided is a few questions, that can help
you find a topic for reflection and further exploration.
Depending on your personality or previous experiences with Dialogue Walks, this
rather unusual exercise might feel exciting or be met with trepidation. Surprisingly,
and despite my bumpy start of feeling self-conscious, I found it to be an inspiring and
thought-provoking experience. I was astonished to be able to connect with a stranger
in such a short amount of time, addressing deeper topics than I might have with
someone I know for years, exchanging and exploring ideas through this togetherness.
Since this, I have done more dialogue walks, but they are no longer shrouded in the
same nervousness. It made me think of why these dialogue walks are so powerful.
Maybe we do not listen consciously to one another anymore, we might hear, but we
might not listen deeply.
Maybe it is about being connected to talking without the previous planned and
rehearsed intention of meeting to talk about a particular topic or discuss an issue.
Maybe it’s just about being given the time and permission to talk, and the space to
explore ideas, without questions, suggestions or comment that jolt and interrupt a
freer thought process.
Indeed, not talking, or filling in silences, felt initially so uncomfortable, and so
different to how we usually engage with each other- saying our piece, recounting our
own stories in agreement, filling in gaps and waiting for others to contribute. It is a
peculiar permission to keep on talking. It becomes easy to forget that you are in a
conversations at all – allowing for deeper thoughts to form and to speak out loud the
conversations and discussions that go on in your head.
Once the unusual feeling of not facing my conversation partner directly subsided, I
felt that walking beside one another felt more equal, less confrontational. There is
something about walking in the same direction, seeing the same path, both not
knowing what’s happening behind our backs, that brings a sense of togetherness.
What might happen if we were to do Dialogue Walks more regularly in our lives? The
new connections formed, new experiences made, new ideas sparked, new thoughts
developed and encouragement provided.
Worth thinking about. After all, it only takes 40 courageous minutes…