By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
When I’m in my office and on a client call where I’m expected to contribute creative thoughts, I will frequently close the door, put the telephone headset on, and pace circles around my office. And when I’m stumped over the course of a couple days by something for this blog, like a topic or a way to frame it, I will sometimes take a short stroll or a bike ride and find that afterward, without any conscious effort on my part, the problem has been solved. There is something about movement that frees the mind and lets the more creative thoughts flow. A recent article in The New Yorker takes a look at this relationship (“Why Walking Helps Us Think”). The article finds both literary and social science evidence for this “curious link between mind and feet.”
The implications for those working in an office are clear: Get up from behind that desk. You don’t need an excuse and you’ll be more productive for it. For presenters – trial lawyers and others who work while speaking on their feet -- it carries a different implication. I have always heard, and sometimes given, the advice that a speaker who moves too much is a distraction. “Stop pacing like a caged tiger,” the advice went, “and move only occasionally and purposefully during transitions.” But the longer I’ve studied effective communicators, I’ve come to believe that this advice doesn’t really translate to the real world. The practical rule against pacing is so frequently violated, by very experienced and effective speakers as well. Dynamic communicators move, and not just during transitions. As a result, my thinking has evolved and I will now say, “Go ahead and move when it feels right…just don’t get carried away.” The New Yorker article, however, provides a new perspective on why it might “feel right” for a speaker to move.