Expert advice on Business Leadership and tips on becoming a more effective Leader.

Leadership Skills: Invisible Conversations By Joe Tye

If two people are talking and there is no one else in the room, how many participants are there in the conversation?

This is not a trick question, but the answer is four. The two people conversing, both of whom are visible and audible, and the inner voices in each of their heads, both of which are invisible and inaudible.

Though these inner voices cannot be seen or heard, they are very much a part of the conversation. And they might be saying something that is quite contrary to what is being audibly voiced. Consider the following hypothetical interchange between a supervisor and a subordinate:

Supervisor: Mike, you did a great job on that recent project. I really appreciate the contributions you are making to our team.

Supervisor’s self-talk: I hope that this “one minute manager” pep talk works, because nothing else seems to motivate Mike to do more than the absolute minimum.

Subordinate: Thanks Jeff, I appreciate it. But it was really a whole team effort, and they all deserve the credit.

Subordinate’s self-talk: Yeah, right. We get a pat on the back now, but when bonuses get handed out, it will be Mike going home with the money.

Quite obviously, even though a conversation is going on, it is not real communication. Conversations like this, in which the real meaning is hidden, occur all the time (think of the last time you asked your teenager to clean out the garage).

Of course, you can’t read another person’s mind (sometimes it’s hard enough to read your own mind!), but you can do a better job of monitoring your own self- talk and paying attention to the body language and facial expressions of the other person.
Joe Tye is president of Paradox 21 Inc., which provides corporate training and culture change initiatives based on a proprietary curriculum of The Twelve Core Action Values of Personal Leadership Effectiveness. He is also the author of several books and audio programs on personal, career, and business success, and a popular motivational speaker. Visit

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