Wondering About Your Relationship? Look At How You Walk Together
Body language is an important part of any social interaction, and it can help us better understand how a person is feeling. Most often, body language cues are things like leaning into a conversation or crossing our arms when we feel uncomfortable. But a new study sought to see if how we feel can be seen in our steps—and it turns out it can be.
The study, published today, was conducted by researchers in Japan and aimed to see how walking can be seen as a type of nonverbal communication1—both for indicating the status of a relationship and for how it can affect the relationship.
Specifically, they focused on a phenomenon they called step synchronization. Walking is such a second-nature, subtle act—one of the first skills we learn. The knowledge that it may be affected by how we feel about our other people is an interesting example of the physical manifestation of feelings.
In order to conduct the study, they paired same-gender people who didn't know each other previously and tested three conditions: a half-silent, half-conversation walk; a silent walk; and a non-walking condition, where participants sat in a room and filled out a survey.
The researchers found a particular link between first impressions and our steps: A better first impression meant more synchronicity when walking. They also found that pairs of women were more disposed to synchronicity, as were older pairs.
But it also turns out that walking together can also affect our feelings about the relationship: Participants increased their impression ratings after going on a walk with their partner. According to the researchers, this suggests that the simple act of sharing a walk—even without any verbal communication—can change our relationships.
"I think most people are not even aware that their steps are synchronized with other people as they walk," said Chia-huei Tseng, Ph.D., an associate professor at Tohoku University.
Because it's something we don't necessarily think about, our walking pattern is an interesting component of our body language to consider in terms of our personal relationships. But this has us curious about whether we should be scheduling more walking dates for reasons other than the health benefits and the mindset boost.
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.