The hidden piece in conversations

In every conversation, we have ever had; we have a motivation, either a conscious one like ordering food or an unconscious one like when we ask some random question or deflect to another topic. 

Some of the biggest challenges I find in my work with people, is if there is shame or fear associated with the motivation. Such as asking, if we were brought up to believe it is selfish to ask, then instead of asking for what we want, it is more likely we will attempt to influence people towards that outcome.

Equally if we were brought up and encouraged to solve problems, peace keeps or regulate someone else’s emotions, then in conversations we are likely to different degrees re-enact that role and take responsibility for controlling that aspect of conversations. 

We may avoid conflict, even when required, we might be pushing solutions when actually there isn’t one or it hasn’t been asked of us or we might have such a strong infinity with how others feel, that we cannot tolerate certain emotions. 

If our sense of worth comes from your work, it sets us up to right fight and become over attached to outcomes. It also sets us up to prove ourselves and discount others.

Another example is in groups, often a number of people like leading, being in charge or passive or to be led. These comfortable positions originate from the ways we have learned to date to manage in groups. Most often depending on how strongly we are connected to them they work, then other times they undermine us. 

The issue arises when two or more people want to fulfill a role and the role itself requires one person. Or when someone has an unconscious motivation, that conflicts with the groups agenda. Our a role is being created because of a resistance to fill another more required role in a group. 

How do we know if an unconscious agenda is motivating us, more than your conscious? 

  1. We are stuck on a point and can’t let it go, even though it has been demonstrated why it is not the best route forward. 
  2. We are pushing, rather than collaborating 
  3. We are reactive in the conversation, rather than reflective.
  4. We are shutting people down, either overtly or covertly.
  5. We want to be heard, however you do not want to hear something different. 


These are all red flags and tell us that we want something from the conversation that may not be conscious to us and in the pursuit of it are adding an agenda to a conversation, covertly. 

Not only may it not be conscious, it may not be possible to get it from the conversation itself either. Which can leave us frustrated and angry if it is not made conscious and processed. 

Often struggles I witness in places of work are unconscious needs playing out, creating all sorts of confusion and frustration for everyone. 

It is a conversation about who’s job it is to put the bin out, that secretly represents how supported or unsupported we might feel or facilitates the opportunity for someone to show how good they are or how bad another is. It can also be a complaint or a genuine worry, “is this my job?”. One comment, can represent so much more. 

This may sound petty however so often the things we prioritie in work, are often prioritised for a whole other reason, then even we realise and it is this reason that gets us caught up in ourselves and even further from our own needs. Therefore, I strongly encourage people I coach to engage in reflective practice, to look at what is conscious and what may be unconscious in their actions and conversations. 

It allows us to understand and develop a sense of learning as we go, with an openness to what else might be occurring besides our own interpretation. 

Reflective practice is starting to take hold in careers that traditionally would take a directive approach, such as in sports or in management models. With the increase in coaching and organisational development, we are seeing how our individual blind spots outcomes. 

We can loosely trace the effectiveness of action back to the original conversations and each conversation along the way.

Everything requires a conversation otherwise it is just a thought. If we do not see what and how we do daily conversations, as much part of any barrier or solution as what others “should” be doing we not only limit ourselves but those we are speaking to.