When intent is confused

I wonder how easy it is to expect others to know our intent, without us making the right efforts to share that intent at all.

It’s something I’m very guilty of. I have full and complete expectation that unless I’m being serious, you will appreciate that most of what I say is meant lightly and low in seriousness. It’s a massively unfair expectation because when others misunderstand what I’ve said, I know it’s because of how I’ve said my piece.

It’s really easy to believe you’re acting with the right intent, but how do I recognise your intention if I don’t know you?

It’s a very real problem facing anyone who wants to send out a message of some sort. The message needs to relay the intent of the person / organisation.

It’s also a very real problem facing anyone dealing in customer service. How do you show positive intent when dealing with an irate customer?

I heard something interesting the other day that if you get past the noise, then you can focus on the intent. That’s a real challenge if you’re facing a range of emotions that you have to deal with.

So for me there’s something about honesty and authenticity in this thing about showing up. I show up when I’m having conversations – but if I’m not displaying the right behaviours, using the right language, and being true to myself, how can you know what my intent is?

It’s why corporate messaging in corporate speak doesn’t work and falls on flat ears. It’s why e-learning gets such a bad rap when it’s poorly designed. It’s why people get irate with each other when they’re trying to achieve things. It’s why the performance management system is broken. It’s why employee engagement gets a regular hammering. The intent is always the right thing to do, but the actions and behaviours don’t chime, and it all becomes more difficult.

There’s also something for me about my own self-awareness, self-regulation and how mindful I am of my current situation. That combination of awareness means I should be able to better show up and display my intent in the desired way.

I’m no closer to a round up of thinking on this one. It’s just a selection of thoughts.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “When intent is confused”

  1. You can smell intent (face to face). Electronic communication has made it so much harder to understand what people are really getting at. It’s an increasingly difficult thing to know what people are really saying, how they are saying it and why. Enjoyed the flag

  2. Thought-provoking post, Sukh.

    I would add that intent is a two-way street. Unfortunately some people are quick to put words in your mouth, or fight the “straw man”.

    It’s something we must all be mindful of – whether we are sending the message or receiving/replying to it.

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