Don’t Assume They Meant It

Posted by Beetle B. on Mon 27 March 2017

Intentions strongly influence our judgments.

Watch your sentences and notice how often you are attributing intentions to the other party.

In an argument where your intentions are misinterpreted, do not think that merely explaining your intentions is the solution.

First Mistake: Assumptions About Intentions

We Assume Intentions From The Impact On Us

The first big mistake we make: We attribute the other person’s intentions based on the impact it has on us. If they made me feel lousy, I assume that was the intent.

We tend to assume the worst about the other’s intentions. But we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we screw up.

Getting Their Intentions Wrong is Costly

Guessing the wrong intention is hazardous to the relationship. Easy to jump from “bad intentions” to “bad person”.

Accusing Them of Bad Intentions Creates Defensiveness

You may say it with good intentions, but the phrasing will make them the other person feel they are being maligned, provoked, etc. So they’ll defend themselves or attack back.

Often the conversation devolves into both parties feeling they are on the defensive. Both parties feel like they are the victim. This is how well intentioned people get in trouble.

Attributions Can Become Self Fulfilling

If you feel your boss doesn’t value your work, it may impact your work, and then he may not value it!

The Second Mistake: Don’t Sanitize Bad Impact

Why were you trying to hurt me?” These are really two statements: “I know what you intended” and “You hurt me”

Explaining that you did not intend it while ignoring the hurt is a bad idea. You may explain it, but beginning the conversation with the correction usually is a sign you did not comprehend the full story.

Don’t just explain your intention. Understand the way the other party felt.

Avoiding The Two Mistakes

Avoiding The First Mistake: Untangle Intent and Impact

Ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. What did the other person actually do?
  2. What was the impact on me?
  3. Based on this impact, what assumption am I making about the intent?

Then tell them the impact, explain the assumption (make it clear it is a hypothesis). Ask if it is true (don’t assert).

Do not hide your assumption! State it! IT signals your feelings.

Avoiding The Second Mistake: Listen For Feelings and Reflect On Your Intentions

When accused, get past the accusations and note the feelings.

Start your response with the feelings. Then explain yourself.

tags : communication, dc