Have you ever found yourself imagining a conversation in your head with someone from your workplace? In this conversation, you may be reliving or replaying a conversation that took place, remembering what you said and what the other person said. Or, you may be imagining a conversation before it takes place, mentally rehearsing and preparing for an upcoming meeting. Or, you may be imagining yourself saying things to a coworker that you would never say in real life.
These are imagined conversations: conversations that take place in our minds with people from our real-life. During these imagined conversations, you mentally play the role of yourself and the other person, imaging what each of you would say and how you would react.
Last year, 88 managers and leaders participated in my research project about imagined conversations at work. All of them were able to remember a recent imagined conversation with a coworker. During these imagined work-related conversations, they were most often talking in their head to their boss, but frequently they were talking to a subordinate or a peer. The topics of these imagined conversations were things like: lack of work getting accomplished, work schedules and absences, conflict between staff members, bringing a problem to the boss, division of work duties, and customer complaints.
These imagined conversations reflect the emotional and relational complexities of today’s work environment. Working with others can difficult and we are challenged to collaborate with each other as well have tough conversations, give honest feedback, and manage workplace conflicts. All of these situations can be triggers for imagined conversations. Through these imagined conversations, we can better understand ourselves, our situation, and our coworkers.
One of the goals of Foresight Coaching is to raise awareness of the many hidden aspects of workplace relationship dynamics, including imagined conversations. These hidden dynamics are mirrors of our real-life workplace relationships with coworkers. Paying more attention to our imagined conversations can be an important leadership development tool for greater awareness of our thoughts, our emotions, our motivations, and our word choices.