I love walking but I need to motivate myself to get out the door. I urgently needed to create a new habit of extra exercise. Some people are so self-motivated but I need to be forced kicking and screaming out the door. Yes, a tad of exaggeration here. My solution was to start a small walking group. Making it essential for me to turn up as I was responsible for getting my friends up in the morning to face this challenge with me.
A couple of years in and we now walk regularly without fail every Thursday around the Jalon Valley in the Costa Blanca region of Spain. The group is made up mostly of women, however, we openly invite more men to join in the walk.
We are not the hiking kind, no sticks or red socks. Our focus became friendships, sharing breakfasts, and offering some supportive small talk. The pandemic made us all realise that conversations with friends, some old and new had health benefits. This is why walking in a group can be so good for all.
Often regarded as the social lubricant of everyday conversations, serves to break the ice and establish a connection with others. It encompasses the casual, light-hearted exchanges we engage in to initiate or sustain a conversation, often about non-controversial topics, although we have covered topics that can be.
Thankfully nobody has got into an argument yet though over Brexit or Donald Trump. Small talk acts as a bridge that enables us to navigate social interactions with ease and build rapport, it is not a conversation that needs to be won over, whether with acquaintances, colleagues, or strangers. While it may seem superficial at first glance, small talk plays a vital role in fostering relationships, creating a comfortable atmosphere, and uncovering shared interests. The art of small talk continues to be an invaluable skill that helps us forge meaningful connections in various social settings.
I am grateful to have had the pleasure of conversing with fellow walkers within our group. It’s amusing how these discussions can take unexpected turns, drifting away from the original topic as small talk takes hold. However, it is precisely this seemingly inconsequential chatter that has the power to stir our souls and liberate our minds from the burdens of everyday concerns, allowing us to gain a fresh perspective on what truly matters in life. Through these meandering conversations, we learn to appreciate the significance of moments that might have otherwise seemed insignificant, helping us prioritize and find clarity in our thoughts. As you can tell this is not just about walking.
To balance the conversation we could do with a few more men walking in the group. Understand that men are less inclined to engage in small talk than women, now there is a topic to discuss. Women can dominate the small talk, this has been proven, however, it would be nice to bump up the small talk with another perspective. Men often face pressure to convey confidence, assertiveness, and a sense of authority, which can lead them to prioritize more direct and goal-oriented conversations or just say very little. As a result, they can perceive small talk as unproductive or unnecessary. Of course, we would disagree as we have felt the benefits of social conversation whether it be whilst walking or talking over breakfast. Could this be the case? Additionally, cultural expectations around masculinity may discourage men from engaging in conversations that are perceived as trivial or unimportant. Men are beginning to open up emotionally now more than ever and healthy walking and talking can benefit them just as well.
However this is not a gender issue, our group can become engrossed in a bubble of its own, At times it has given the impression that they are happy to keep the same people within, forgetting that all are welcome, as it was originally set up to propose. The small talk on offer can grow and re-nourish when new walkers join in. Topics diversify and can lead to new friendships, creative ideas, and mindful stimulation. I jump on that mindset, feeling it is important to remind us to be open to welcoming new people.
Why don’t you come and walk with us? we say it to people all the time. It is small talk when you meet new people, some say yes but some need dragging out the door. I understand that so well.
Anyone can do this. When we stop the excuses and just say yes. Even the men.
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