Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash
If you happen to give talks in front of people, it may have happened to you to see someone in the audience frowning, looking severe, like they didn’t like or agree with what you were saying, whereas they were just very focused and trying, understand and absorb what you were saying (by the way I am one of these guys when I am listening to a talk). Or someone who looked bored and almost sleeping and suddenly asking a brilliant spot on question. If so, you’ve experienced the fact that the Intention of someone (in this case listening and willing to understand) is often different from the Impact (making the speaker feel like something is wrong or not interesting with his/her speech).
And the thing is …
We judge ourselves based on our INTENTION; Others judge us based on our IMPACT.
INTENTION vs IMPACT. A lot of conflicts come from the fact that these two are confused. And the fact that our impact is often different from our intention and that we are not aware of it is due to various things such as:
- Our blind spots: we don’t really see ourselves operate; we can’t see what others see about us
- People live from their own perception which means they see the world differently than us. Literally. We kind of know that and yet, we forget it every day. People will interpret what they see /hear/feel based on their own values, education, experience, biases and therefore will receive what you send with their own filters and you will receive what they send with your own filter.
- Eventually, we are not taught/educated to be present to our impact. It is really a practice.
A few years back, my 2 oldest sons Luca and Noa locked themselves in their room to prepare a surprise to their younger brother Elio. Very kind intention. Now when he saw that, Elio tried to enter the room to see what they were doing and to play with them and didn’t like to be kept outside. The impact was actually that Elio felt excluded. Totally different from the intention. On the other side of it, Elio’s intention was to play with his brothers, very reasonable intention too. And so, he insisted to get in. The impact was that his brothers felt confronted and upset that their brother was crushing their plan, especially when it was to make him a surprise. The impact was also not the intended one. And it became a nice, energetic argument. Because they were all coming from their own good intention and couldn’t see the impact they were having on the other side, the situation circled negatively. Even telling Elio that they were preparing him a surprise didn’t have him calm down and agree to let them finish, either because his desire to feel included was stronger than getting a surprise, either because too much cortisol (stress hormone) had been released and in that state, the brain is just not open to any other point of view, no matter how rational. Only after a long talk about this insightful experience were they able to sort things out.
This is a rather obvious illustration but there are more subtle cases. For instance, someone with a positive intention of doing a good job, helping his/her teammates might, because of a lack of confidence, show a strong self-assurance (a mechanism to “survive” with a low self-confidence) and the others will only see arrogance.
Now, what can you do about this?
- Regarding the others’ impact, you can:
- Assume a positive intention in others, even if the impact on you is not positive at first (I know it’s hard). We are all human beings and most people have a positive intention, just playing their role at work, protecting their team, wanting to take care of their family, etc… And often, these good intentions might be hidden by protective behaviors unconsciously generated from a place of fear and insecurity (we all have this, and if you don’t see it for yourself, I’m inviting you to take a deeper look).
- Share what the impact others have on you, without wanting to fix them.
- Regarding your own impact, you can:
- Be intentional and build your muscle of being present to what your impact is in the moment and after an interaction.
- Ask for direct feedback to relatives, colleagues, managers or direct reports (on a professional level, doing a 360 is a good way to do that) AND… the hardest part… don’t justify yourself. It doesn’t matter why you are doing this or that (this is your intention), the result is the impact you are having. It might be useful in a conflict that everyone shares their intention but not as a way to dismiss their impact.
- Do some videos, watch yourself speak and get present to your impact (yeah, I know that hurts…)
Last but not least, looking to be present to your impact also has the advantage to have you see when your impact is actually aligned with your intention. It will validate what you are doing, build your confidence and move you forward.
What is your impact? Is it aligned with your intention?