Trail Talk: The Top 5 Ways to Create the Space for Greatness

I do some of my best listening and express some of my best ideas when running on the trail.  I have a great friend I run with and we have covered a lot of material over some epic runs.  Some of those have been 30+ hours.  We'll go hours sometimes without even talking (I mean, I like to talk but eventually I simply run out of things to cover) but there is always plenty of time to chat.  Dave and I have a code on the trail and it's "Trail Talk" -- a place where we can bring up anything and know that it won't get shared beyond the two of us.   There is something about Trail Talk that is rich with learning and creativity.  But it doesn't require a trail.  Anyone can do "Trail Talk".  Here are top ingredients for successful "trail talk" with a friend or colleague or spouse:

1.  Get Out From Behind the Table:  Frankly, don't even be in a place where you need to look them in the eye.  What's great about the trail is I can look in front of me and think without having to make constant eye contact.  I can be a lot more open and vulnerable when I'm not sitting face to face in a formal setting.  Try it when driving a car or going for a walking meeting.  Liberate yourself.

2.  Set the Ground Rules:  Trail Talk is about safety.  It is about intentional listening.  It is about sharing experiences and giving advice if asked.  It is also about confidentiality.  Ask the person if they can respect your ground rules so that you can build a protective fence around the topics.

3.  Be Curious:  The trail is typically a series of big ups and big downs.  On the up, the last thing I want to do is talk but I love when Dave does.  So I ask a lot of questions (and I'm generally interested).  The good news is that I don't feel compelled to respond or give my reaction (I'm usually too tired anyways).  But that's fine.  Curiosity doesn't require judgement.  It just requires an interest to learn.

4.  Dive In:  Within about 2 minutes on long runs Dave and I are covering interesting material.  We don't spend time on "surface conversation".  It's a waste.  It's inefficient.  Trail running is all about efficiency and Trail Talk is no different.    There really isn't a lot of time (or energy) for wasted words.  We want to solve problems.

5.  Remember the High Points and Act:  I'm not taking notes on a trail just like I'm not taking notes during a walking meeting or engaging with a passenger in a car.  But after the run, I will write down the key takeaways and plan to follow-up.  The discussion is usually rich and actionable and I don't want to forget it.  Make a point to turn the decisions-made into action.

Find your Trail Talk in your personal life and in business and it will transform your relationships.  It will feel authentic and intentional and led from a place of true feeling.  It will force you to listen more, think more deeply, and speak when you really have something worthwhile to contribute.