Being thoroughly unique and one-of-a-kind on a planet of 7 billion people makes you feel quite special. You have your own special place in this world, with your own life to live and potential to fulfil. One of the consequences of being unique is that nobody else will quite see the world in exactly the same way as you do. If you haven’t already done so, I pray you come across people in your life that see things the way you see them, people that can come alongside you as you journey together. We all need these kinds of people because we can accomplish greater things with people we share the same goals with.
However, despite all that, it is not possible to see eye to eye on everything. Even if we have the best intentions, misunderstandings, miscommunication and misinterpretations happen. More specifically in this piece, I’d like to discuss the topic of intention vs impact.
Too many people have too many arguments, and I definitely include myself in this, centred around what they did or did not intend to do, rather than deal with the impact they actually had.
When my wife and I attend social occasions such as weddings or birthday parties, I like to mingle. I find it a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I see the whole event as a chance to build relationships really efficiently, particularly in today’s frantic and busy society. It’s like speed-networking, but purely on a social level. I have a great day. Only to find out that my wife’s experience was not so great. She is upset with me because I left her by herself for most of the party. Initially I would argue that I had no intention of leaving her by herself, I just wanted to chat to people that I haven’t seen in a while or don’t normally see at all. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t make her feel any better!
I was defending my actions based on the fact that I didn’t intend for her to feel alone or unwanted. I didn’t mean to cause her any harm. I certainly didn’t want her to have a bad day, particularly on account of something I did. But that’s what happened. And that’s what counts. Regardless of my intentions, it’s the impact of my actions that count.
Maybe you’ve opened the door for your partner as a kind gesture, only for your partner to interpret the action as an act of inequality, “I’m perfectly capable of opening the door myself, thanks”. Maybe you bought someone a gift and for some reason they took offence and rejected it. As hard as it is to swallow, it is irrelevant how sincere and grand your intention to please is – what matters is how the person on the receiving end interpreted your actions.
The measure of good communication is how the person receiving the communication reacts, and not how well you think you communicated. I could slap you in the face and genuinely say I love you but if it’s not received that way, (which I imagine it wouldn’t be!), it’s my fault.
Whenever you have conversations, heated debates or arguments about something, consider whether you’re centring it around intentions. If you are, then you’re actually making it all about you. And that means there’s no focus on the other person, and how they’re feeling, based on their interpretation of your actions. First, apologise for your actions and not your intentions. Second, seek to understand how the other person interpreted your actions, and acknowledge and accept their feelings. Third, ask them what it would look like for them to see your intention in action.
Bad decisions can come from good intentions, and if people perceive you the wrong way, it doesn’t matter what your intentions are.
“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:28)