We All Have Background Conversations...But What Are They?


That is a useful question to start the process of encouraging people to be aware that they have a background conversation that, without prompting, they may not  think to share. 

And, if open, honest, and direct communications is our goal, we need to find ways to make it safe for people to say what's on their mind.

We have to be mindful though that we don't cross a threshold into being interrogators, after all, we are all entitled to our private thoughts...we don't have to share everything we think.

Having someone willing to share with us what they think...what they reallythink...is a function of our genuine curiosity to know what's on their mind when we ask.  Being willing to be completely open is a function of the level of affinity we share, and the level of trust that exists between us. 



When the relationships are good colleagues, friends, and family will share their background conversations with us in lots of different ways. For example we'll naturally ask:

  • What do you think of the idea?
  • What's on your mind...?
  • You haven't said very much...anything you want to say?
  • Any questions or reservations you'd like to share?
  • Any feedback you'd like to give me?
  • ...

And, when we are speaking...from an intention to be open, direct and unexpurgated...it becomes superfluous to announce what your background conversation is, because by virtue of the fact you are speaking, without prompting, it is not a background conversation anymore.

 As one person put it, "I noticed myself cringing when people announce that their "background conversation is...". "If the idea is to tell people what we are really thinking, perhaps the next evolutionary step in our communications with each other should be... to remove the boundary between our internal and external monologue."