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Intention vs Impact

Ben Whiting, October 22, 2018

Intention vs Impact

Until the incident, life was great. I was on top of my game with my career, was the proud owner of my first dog, and to top it all off I had just married the love of my life. So, what threw everything out of whack? 

A Christmas gift. 

My wife and I were married in late fall and she’d been working really hard to stay in shape for the wedding photos. She looked great in the photos and said to me afterward, “I feel great and really want to stay in shape, even though the wedding is behind us now.” So what did I, the rookie of the year husband, give my wife as her first Christmas present ever in our marriage? I gave her a gym membership. 

It was a rookie mistake. 

It’s funny that we often judge ourselves based on our intentions, but we judge others based on the impact they have on us, and it’s in that gap between intention and impact that conflict and drama reside. I thought the gym membership was a good gift. It showed I was listening, and that I supported my wife’s commitment to fitness. However, all my wife perceived (incorrectly, might I add) was a critique of her current fitness level.

Have you ever done or said something where your intentions were misinterpreted because of the impact of what you did?

A lot of what we do at Lead Star is help organizations and teams reach their high-performing potential, and the first big step to that is helping team members close the gap between the intentions and the impact of their words and actions.

Here are some tips to help you do the same:

  • If you find yourself getting offended before you get upset with someone ask yourself:
    • What are the intentions of this person, and could they be good?
    • Do they have all the information to realize what they’re doing/saying bothers me?
    • What would it take for me to act this way, and could that be happening to this person?
  • When you’re communicating something make sure people always know what your intentions are, and that they’re positive (of course if you don’t have good intentions you might want to reevaluate your behavior).
  • If you realize there’s a gap between the intention and the impact of your actions, work to close it. This can be done by:
    • Taking the initiative to apologize and point out your intentions.
    • Asking others to clarify their intentions.
    • In my case, give your wife a New Year’s Eve present

Zig Ziglar often says, “People generally don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” In my experience, putting effort into clarity is the same as putting effort into caring. I hope this was clear.

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