Communication is most productive when words match intentions. Lack of self-awareness can color our speech, unintentionally flavoring what we say with anger or sarcasm. The listener then picks up the bad feeling, and reacts to the feeling rather than the words.
Asking, “what is my intention?” before a difficult conversation can lead to a more fruitful discussion, and bring you more of what you want.
Questions to clarify intentions:
–“What do I need?”
–“What do I want this person to do for me?”
–“Is how I am asking likely to get me what I want?”
–“How should I word this so the other will hear?”
–“Do I have intentions outside this conversation?”
Outside intentions can include, “I need to prove I’m right and you’re wrong,” “I’m smarter,” or “I need to assert my authority.” If so, keep asking questions to find a better strategy. Behind it, you are likely to find something like, “I want your respect,” “please listen,” “I need support,” or “I want you to be accountable.”
Now you are on your way to a more worthwhile exchange.
What if your intentions are clear, well communicated, and someone else clouds your words? Ask about the misinterpretation. “What did you hear me say?” can open the door to an honest exchange.
Part of becoming aware of intentions is to be careful about assigning an intention to someone else. “She did that just to irritate me!” “He just wants me to fail!”
How do we really know someone else’s intention? Ask.
“What did you mean when you said _____?” Or engage in a little self-reflection, “Did I hear that the way she meant it?” Did your own mental filter change the meaning of what the other said? Take responsibility for what is yours, and try to let go of what is not.
In day-to-day dialogue, observe the intentions of yourself and others. Pay attention to intention.