Recent Research Proposes Walking as Creative Conflict Resolution Practice

Summary of:

Webb, C.E., Rossignac-Milon, M, & Higgins, E.T. (2017). Stepping forward together: Could walking facilitate interpersonal conflict resolution? American Psychologist, Volume 72, 374-385. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0040431.

Background & Theory

This article examines how walking may be beneficial to not only an individual, but to multiple people involved in a conflict resolution process.

Research Questions

The article explores the fascinating concept that walking could be a unique and effective method of conflict resolution. The authors seek to answer the following:

  1. What are the known benefits of walking to an individual?
  2. How could walking together create similar and helpful benefits to multiple people, especially within conflict resolution? 

Methods

The authors examined multiple studies that explain the known benefits of walking, colloquial terms in regards to walking that promote positive thinking, how moving together is known to be beneficial to people within a similar space, and how these all come together to influence positive conflict resolution among two people (if not a group of people). 

Results

The results show that walking is proven to offer many helpful benefits to a person, including positive thinking, a relaxed state, and creative thinking and problem solving. If used within conflict resolution processes, there is a potential for many positive outcomes amongst disputants. This is because walking can encourage a relaxed environment and posture (especially when in nature or fully removed from a tense space), encourages each individual to think in a way that indicates “moving forward,” and can allow for a common goal and place the disputants in sync — all of which are beneficial to conflict resolution.

What This Means

  • Walking is routinely encouraged for the many positive benefits it provides for an individual; aside from the physical benefits, it is thought of as a positive activity that promotes health and mental well-being. There aren’t many downsides to using this as a creative means to promote peace.
  • Walking may be a way to both physically and metaphorically “move forward” in the conflict resolution process. Additional benefits are that:
    • It doesn’t require a cost
    • It promotes a healthy lifestyle
    • It moves the disputants to a new environment, which can assist in more creative thoughts
    • It places both (or all) disputants in a position where there is a common goal and both are physically and mentally open to a constructive means to address the conflict at hand

Final Takeaway

For consultants: While it may not always be practical, perhaps suggesting your clients go on a walk together or being there as a mediator can be useful for a change of scenery and new process of thought.

For everyone: Walking has no downsides to your health and well-being. The next time you find yourself in a conflict, consider going on a walk to clear your head, or better yet, consider going on a walk with the person(s) you are in conflict with, in the hopes that the benefits of walking may be shared amongst you and promote new or creative ways to address the current situation. If nothing else, you may find that you are both less tense about the situation.

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