Whenever we teach communication skills, we talk about the importance of intention.
One of the first things you see on our website – “Be intentional.”
Obviously, we think that intention is everything. But, in some ways, it’s also nothing.
It is important to be intentional and purposeful in all you do, in how you show up and how you lead. It’s important to think through your actions, and the outcomes you’re aiming for, and respond rather than react. To be clear about where you’re going, so that what you do can help get you there.
But often what really matters is others’ perspectives. Because I can have the best intentions – and act in a way that is completely aligned with who I am, who I want to be, and how I want to connect with others – and I can still be misunderstood. I can still annoy or upset you. What I do can backfire.
At that point, what matters is to find a way past or through the impasse. To find a way to connect and understand each other better. To find a way to align my intention with your perception, or your perception with my intention. To get on the same side of the problem and solve it together.
It reminds me of when my kids used to fight, and one of them would classically announce that the other had been the one to act out first. “I don’t care who started it,” I always replied.
The same is true for my clients, and for me when I get stuck in a standoff with someone. “I don’t care who started it,” I remind my clients (or myself). “I don’t care if you had the best of intentions. What you’ve done has blown up, or caused the other person to blow up. Who cares who’s at fault? What do you want to do about it now?”
Sometimes we have to break the impasse. Sometimes we have to admit that our best intentions have caused bad – or even horrific – misunderstandings and repercussions. Sometimes we have to not care if “they” started it and realize that our intentions don’t matter, and do whatever we can to remedy and move forward together.
How do you break the impasse when you’re misunderstood?
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