Nicola’s Lockdown Empathy Walk

A personal reflection from Nicola Park, Director of Resources

Looking at this week’s diary, I can see I was due to go for an empathy walk with my friend Gill from the Development Team.  We planned this pre-Covid and we do this a handful of times each year since we learned about it on our Thistle Leading and Learning course in 2018.

Before lockdown, we would book a slot in our calendars and go for a walk around the Thistle Estate and usually up towards Craigmillar Castle. We enjoyed the fresh air, admired the seasonal changes we were noticing – but mostly we took it in turns actively listening to each other, asking open questions and taking turns being heard.  It sounds like a simple technique however it always takes me a few minutes to stop simply chatting and switch on to active listening.

I find it very therapeutic – Gill is great at prompting deeper reflection by feeding back to me what she is hearing and then asking a gentle question that helps me go deeper.  I always come back from these walks feeling more relaxed and clearer on whatever topic I was talking about, and I really enjoy letting my ears do the work for a change when it is my turn to listen!

Since lockdown, we haven’t been able to meet up (I live in Stirling so can’t easily get to Gill’s area) so we’ve made plans to take our phones out and go for a distanced walk.

In the meantime, I’ve found it really beneficial to try active listening while walking with my husband near our home during lockdown.  I haven’t tried explaining the technique to him, I just listen without trying to add my own story in and it’s amazing how relaxing we both seem to find it.  You hear a lot more when you listen with empathy.

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