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Intent Over Impact? Communication GOLD!

If you communicate with others (and who among us does not?) then this article is meant as a gentle reminder. Have you ever heard the saying “Don’t take things so personally!”? I have been gifted with an ability that I want you to consider practicing.  Listen and apply positive intentions behind the meaning of those communicating with you. I assign an intention that is without malice (or even allow for miscommunication possibilities) before I allow it to impact me as offensive. This is a critical skill that business owners who find themselves in a role of working with clients, employees and vendors MUST master. The idea is to allow that every person speaking to you has the INTENT of articulating a message that has no malicious impact. So often, offending impact is completely missed by the speaker creating that impact. I am speaking to the impression that is left at the end of every sentence.

First, consider this from the speaker perspective. Consider that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE listening to you applies intention behind your words. That intent is often set from thelistener’s personal experience. So when a speaker says “green” one listener will think forest green because that is the color of their car. A different listener will think lime green because it is their wife’s favorite color and she has a handbag that she carries everywhere in that color. To complicate things further, the speaker meant money green…because the speaker deals with cash all day. The same is true of every sentence, paragraph, or even sigh that is addressed to another person. For successful communication please assume as little as possible about your listeners. Do not assume that they knew you were kidding. Do not assume that the person you are speaking with has the same education, religion, geographic, political or professional experiences.

Now, consider the listener side of the equation. In both my personal and professional life, I have repeatedly asked those confiding in me of some offense to take a moment and step back to ask if they believe the “offender” (the one making a statement that has brought the “offended” to my chair) INTENDED to offend with the statement. I ask, “Do you honestly believe that the speaker wanted to hurt your feelings?” Was that the intent of the statement? Truthfully, on a small occasion, that might have been the intent. More often, the listener applied a personal experience or interpretation to the statement. So I ask the listener to step back and consider that clarification may be needed but to agree that the intent was not to offend. The speaker and listener will need to clarify. This is management GOLD for working with growing staff with differing personalities or roles.

I am certainly not suggesting that you move to a Pollyanna communication where malice or offense is never a possibility. I am all about risk management and am well aware that malice exists. I am simply suggesting that if you START from the positive side and allow for the possibilities to be whittled down you often will find the true intention of the speaker is misaligned with the offensive impact you have personally attributed to the conversation. This allows for ease of clarification and team building. It facilitates negotiations and agreements. It is a HUGE tool in an entrepreneur’s tool shed.

There is a side benefit to adopting this practice. On the few occasions when the speaker did INTEND to offend…by not taking offense, it can really burn their britches when you are NOT impacted! Seriously, who has the time or energy to get worked up over someone intending to be hurtful or offensive?  If you do not take offense, that intent of ruining your day goes out the window. No impact.

The next time your staff talks about your long project hours, the next time your business partner “looks funny” at you, the next time your spouse doesn’t hear the details to an event please, please do not assume their intent. Ask them. You know what happens when you ass u me….don’t make me say it!


Talmar It Up is an operations and management firm that was founded by Talmar Anderson. Working with business owners and corporate teams, Talmar It Up works to bridge the gaps in business education and management experience.  Whether working on projects to build teams or one on one through monthly consulting to grow businesses, Talmar Anderson uses energy and enthusiasm every step of the way.  Got more questions? Jump over to www.TalmarItUp.com!

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