An earlier Foresight Blog posting introduced the idea of imagined conversations that we have in our minds with people from our real-life, including our coworkers. During these imagined conversations, we are talking with our boss, peers or subordinates about all sorts of topics related to actual situations at work.
Many people have asked me whether work-related imagined conversations are helpful or harmful. My response: it isn’t that clear cut. Having conducted research on the topic and talked with many clients about their actual imagined conversations, my conclusion is that they can be helpful or harmful depending on the situation.
For example, in my research the majority of the people said that they felt negative emotions during their work-related imagined conversations. But, importantly, a sizable portion experienced mostly positive emotions (21%) or a mixture of positive and negative emotions (18%). In order to shed more light on the positive aspects of imagined conversations, I took a closer look at the stories told by the people who experienced positive emotions.
In June I presented the results of this data analysis at the 3rd International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) World Congress. The findings suggests that we may be able to do our jobs better when we imagine conversations with our coworkers. People can flourish at work by invoking imagined conversations that feel emotionally positive, nurture relationships, and support accomplishment of one’s job.
Specifically, the people who mentally rehearsed work-related conversations in advance of a difficult conversation reported that they developed more conversational options, were more prepared, and had a sense of greater competence to perform their job. Imagined conversations helped them feel more confident, focused, thoughtful, organized, effective, and able to achieve desired outcomes. Through imagined conversations they became more in touch with their thoughts and assumptions about their coworkers, increasing their ability to sensitively communicate.
Ultimately, the goal is to have effective, productive workplace relationships and imagined conversations are one technique that can help people accomplish this.
Can you remember a positive work-related imagined conversation, or a time when you felt you accomplished your job better by mentally rehearsing a conversation? I invite you to share your story in the comments section.