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Setting for Difficult Conversations - When a Park is Ideal

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker

Setting for Difficult Conversations – When a Park is Ideal

by | Difficult Conversations, Leadership Development

Choosing an ideal setting for difficult conversations, be they with your boss, your colleague or your staff member, requires some serious thought.  

/
When I’m helping clients learn how to turn difficult conversations into positive and productive ones, one question that usually comes up is this:
/

Where should I have this conversation?”

/
My initial response is always the same … “It depends.”
/
So … when is taking a walk in a park a good choice?
/
Well, let’s take a look at exactly what this setting provides …
/

Neutrality:

/
A park provides neutral ground as there’s nothing present that reinforces any differences between you and the other person in terms of hierarchy, power or authority.  Neither of you owns this turf, you’re sharing it.
/

Non-confinement:

/
There are no closed doors in this setting; being in a free and open park space takes away any feelings of being physically trapped in a place that one of you might want to escape from.
/

Privacy in Public:

/
This, too, speaks to creating a sense of safety.
/
 You’re away from your workplace.
 As opposed to a coffee shop, no one can overhear your conversation.
 There are other people within visual proximity.
/
In short, it allows the two of you to be alone, without being alone.
/
Of course, unless you’re with a trusted friend, just be sure you don’t find yourselves on a dark, forest path together without another person in sight — that feeling of safety will quickly evaporate and be replaced by something akin to this:
/
 /

Positive Biological Effects:

/
Just being in nature produces numerous biological effects that reduce the tensions surrounding difficult conversations.  Of the countless sources that support this, the article How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?, published by the University of Minnesota, provides a compelling and succinct synopsis, including noting how,
/

“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings.”

/

Flexible Engagement Intensity:

/
This setting allows the engagement intensity between the two of you to flow throughout the conversation.  When either of you wants to increase the engagement intensity, one just has to stop and turn to the other, which invites them to stop, turn and be face to face with you.
/
Conversely, when either of you wants to decrease the engagement intensity, one can just start walking again and the other person will naturally follow.
/

/

The Upshot:

/
If you want to have a conversation that:
/
⇒  reduces the barriers that differences in power and authority can bring,
⇒  creates a feeling of physical and psychological safety,
⇒  allows either party to shift the intensity of engagement at any time,
/
then taking a walk in the park will make the difficult conversation you need to have with your boss/colleague/employee feel more like, well … a walk in the park!
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie
/

Leave a comment:

When has having a difficult conversation while taking a walk with the other person really worked well?

Blog Post

Setting for Difficult Conversations – When a Park is Ideal

by | Difficult Conversations, Leadership Development

Choosing an ideal setting for difficult conversations, be they with your boss, your colleague or your staff member, requires some serious thought.  

/
When I’m helping clients learn how to turn difficult conversations into positive and productive ones, one question that usually comes up is this:
/

Where should I have this conversation?”

/
My initial response is always the same … “It depends.”
/
So … when is taking a walk in a park a good choice?
/
Well, let’s take a look at exactly what this setting provides …
/

Neutrality:

/
A park provides neutral ground as there’s nothing present that reinforces any differences between you and the other person in terms of hierarchy, power or authority.  Neither of you owns this turf, you’re sharing it.
/

Non-confinement:

/
There are no closed doors in this setting; being in a free and open park space takes away any feelings of being physically trapped in a place that one of you might want to escape from.
/

Privacy in Public:

/
This, too, speaks to creating a sense of safety.
/
 You’re away from your workplace.
 As opposed to a coffee shop, no one can overhear your conversation.
 There are other people within visual proximity.
/
In short, it allows the two of you to be alone, without being alone.
/
Of course, unless you’re with a trusted friend, just be sure you don’t find yourselves on a dark, forest path together without another person in sight — that feeling of safety will quickly evaporate and be replaced by something akin to this:
/
 /

Positive Biological Effects:

/
Just being in nature produces numerous biological effects that reduce the tensions surrounding difficult conversations.  Of the countless sources that support this, the article How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?, published by the University of Minnesota, provides a compelling and succinct synopsis, including noting how,
/

“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings.”

/

Flexible Engagement Intensity:

/
This setting allows the engagement intensity between the two of you to flow throughout the conversation.  When either of you wants to increase the engagement intensity, one just has to stop and turn to the other, which invites them to stop, turn and be face to face with you.
/
Conversely, when either of you wants to decrease the engagement intensity, one can just start walking again and the other person will naturally follow.
/

/

The Upshot:

/
If you want to have a conversation that:
/
⇒  reduces the barriers that differences in power and authority can bring,
⇒  creates a feeling of physical and psychological safety,
⇒  allows either party to shift the intensity of engagement at any time,
/
then taking a walk in the park will make the difficult conversation you need to have with your boss/colleague/employee feel more like, well … a walk in the park!
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie
/

Leave a comment:

When has having a difficult conversation while taking a walk with the other person really worked well?
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