What do you REALLY intend?

Car crashA guest blog by Susan McCuistion, Principal, daiOne—Strategy building for business and for life

We see any situation we’re dealing with first from our own perspective. While this is a perfectly natural thing to do, if we don’t also think about the situation from other perspectives, we may jump to conclusions that are incorrect.

The Cultural Detective Model is a great way to help us interpret and understand different perspectives. Key to using this model is to assume positive intent on the part of all parties involved. This gives us the opportunity to step back from our immediate interpretation of a situation, based only on our own perspective, and consider other ways in which the same situation may be viewed.

While this external view—assuming positive intent on the part of others—is important, there is also an internal step we can take before any interaction. That step is to understand our own intentions in what we are communicating.

Let’s face it . . . we’re all human and sometimes we say or do stupid things. No one is immune. We often say we don’t “intend” to hurt someone or do something thoughtless, but whether we intend it or not, the impact of what we say or do is felt by other people.

If other people are continually upset by our words or actions, at some point, we need to stop hiding behind “I didn’t intend to do that.” When we keep bumping up against reactions and challenges that we did not intend to cause, then we need to understand that the impact of what we are doing is not effective.

intent impact

When we continue to do something “unintentionally,” after awhile, doesn’t that become “intentional”? If we aren’t changing how we’re acting or what we’re doing or saying, that means we’re intentionally choosing to remain ignorant of ourselves, our motivations, and the effect of our words and actions on others. If you are not self-aware, and you keep running into the same problems, then you’re just being deliberately unaware.

Getting really clear on what we want to say or do requires self-awareness. We need to be able to understand what we are feeling and take a moment to think before we act. We must take some ownership in the communication process, especially when the reaction we get is not what we expect. And finally, we must take time to develop an understanding of other perspectives, so we can recognize at least some of the ways in which our message might be received. Cultural Detective Self Discovery as well as all the series’ other packages can greatly help in this regard.

“That’s not what I intended” may be an excuse the first time, but not the tenth. Once you are aware of the impact of your words or actions, adjusting them is up to you.

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