Bridging the Gap

personal development Nov 22, 2021

Have you ever experienced a disconnect between intention and impact?

You can't speak or write as much as I do and not experience it (with some frequency). Something is said or done and is not received as intended, resulting in confusion, hurt feelings, or outrage.

What to do?

Acknowledge and accept that between intent and impact lies interpretation. The story the recipient tells themselves about what you meant by what you did or said and the story you tell yourself about what you meant by what you said or did.

Confused yet? Yeah, it can get complicated and go sideways real quick. Have you heard? People are fascinating.

Here are some things I've learned that can help when interpretations about intent and impact go awry.

  1. Assume no malicious intent. Only the clinically sociopathic or psychopathic enjoy causing others distress (and they are a scarce breed). Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Pause. Take a breath (or two or six). Sleep on it. There's rarely any virtue in reacting. Wait until you're calmed down and can respond.
  3. Zoom out. When we feel harmed or misunderstood, we take things personally and act on our prehistoric programming of fight, flight, or freeze. Viewing yourself, your situation, and others involved from above provides context and encourages interconnectedness.
  4. State what's happening objectively without all the emotive adverbs and adjectives. Value judgments can be dangerous. They often breed certainty about things that you can't be sure about.
  5. Get curious. Replace "I'm offended!" with"Isn't that interesting...?" Employ an active listening posture of reflecting what you heard or saw, asking if you heard or saw what was intended and if there's anything else they want to say or do.
  6. Remember that you don't have to say or do anything in response. Is a response worth your time, attention, and energy? Sometimes the best thing you can do is move on.
  7. Know how to apologize. You don't need to be wrong to express regret when feelings have hurt, or a misunderstanding emerges.

What's your strategy for bridging the gap between intent and impact? 

Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose

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