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Where do unconscious interactions
come from ? What can we do ?

Unconscious interactions come from our belief that the following generally accepted assumptions are true :

  • we believe that other people have generally the same perceptions and conclusions than we do

  • we are persuaded that we are aware of our interactions with others: what we conclude, what we decide to do and say, what we actually do and say...

Brain research has now demonstrated that they are in fact false.

I will use the term "undermind" for the brain processes we are not aware of and "mind" for the brain processes we are aware of.

First, the brain hardware, the synapses (the connections between the neurones), we use to interpret the signals coming to our brains, is very different from person to person. So our respective interpretation of the data we hear and see are much more different than what we generally believe or assume.

Second many more aspects of our interactions happen in our undermind than we believe. We have much more unconscious interactions than we believe:

  • our undermind processes and filters the incoming data, what enters into our ears or appears on our retina, to present the mind with information which is not only meaningful, but also which is closest to what the mind expect to see or hear. And the incoming data includes much more non verbal info than we think.

    So in a business meeting, each of us has very different interpretations of the same basic data: what is said !

  •  our undermind is always scanning our environment for potential threats. And whenever it sense something that looks like a threat - even remotely: better be safe than sorry -, it triggers immediately a reaction of fight or freeze of flight. The undermind does this much faster than the mind can process the same raw data and the undermind forces then the mind to focus its attention on the threat  to the exclusion of the rest.

    So in a business meeting, we can observe this when we see suddenly a colleague engaging into defensive or irrational behavior without any apparent logical reason !

  • our undermind takes a decision to act or speak 0.2 to 0.4 seconds before our mind is conscious of the start of this action (or start of these words). If it feels challenged by this action "initiated from under", our mind will post-rationalize and invent a good reason for it. Our mind can then influence subsequent stages of this actions, but the initial impulse is unconscious.

    So in a business meeting, we say words that seem logical at the moment we say them, but that we regret after the meeting.

Are we doomed to always endure the consequences of the defensive interactions coming from our undermind ?
Are we doomed into defensive interactions ?

No, our mind can learn to use constructive interactions and then, once we have practiced them enough, our undermind will also begin to use less ineffective unconscious interactions. Brain sciences show that this learning requires three crucial elements:

  1. slowing down the interactions so that our mind can "see" the underming trying to impose its direction

  2. observing ones own unpleasant feelings which often indicate that the mind perceives body responses to actions initiated by the undermind

  3. be aware of the feeling of low mutual trust: this is the strongest and most reliable indicator that the team is engaged into defensive interactions  

So when we look at a team building workshop or technique, we should ask ourselves:

  • does it create the awareness that our interactions are not always as effective as we believe them to be ?

  • does it help us to slow down our interactions so that our mind can have glimpses into what is coming from the undermind and decide eventually for something more effective ?

  • does it help us to observe our feelings, including low mutual trust, as warning signals that our mind(s) is(are) hostage of our undermind(s) ?

Return from unconscious interactions toroot team building issues

Return from unconscious interactions to team building results

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