What’s your impact? What do you want it to be?
My partner used to get frustrated with me whenever I tried to help him with his business proposals. I just couldn’t understand why these conversations would degenerate into him becoming defensive and my feeling hurt. I was only trying to help!
We seem to assume that because we have a good intention, it will be reflected in the impact we have. We judge ourselves by our intent and if the impact doesn’t match it, we are confused.
If you are clear on your intention and yet your impact on another is a surprise, ask yourself what you could have done differently. Be honest with yourself.
I considered the impact I seemed to have had on my partner and whilst I was clear that my intention truly was to help him, I decided that perhaps my tone didn’t reflect that – I did have a tendency to sound a bit like a school ma’am sometimes! When I thought about why that might be, I realised I felt a bit impatient with him and that my impatience was being communicated in my tone.
When you look a little more deeply at your communication, the impact you’ve had may be less surprising!
In a coaching session once, a client was telling me how she regularly complained to her husband about him not helping with the housework and yet it got her nowhere. She wanted him to realise how thoughtless he was. “What do you really want?” I asked her. “I want him to know I feel taken for granted” she answered quickly. “What do you really want?” I repeated slowly, with an emphasis on the “really”. She was silent for a moment and looked down. Finally, when she looked up she admitted “I want to feel appreciated and I want us to be a team”. That was her REAL intention. I asked her to consider what she would do and say differently with that intention in mind, rather than complaining about her husband’s avoidance of housework.
If you can increase your own awareness to find out what your REAL intention is, you will often find it is “towards” something positive rather than “away from” something negative. My client’s real intention was to feel appreciated and be a team with her husband. If you commit to a positive intention and keep it in mind throughout any conversation (and maybe, a whole relationship) you are more likely to have the impact you want. Keep checking your thoughts, feelings, words and actions are in alignment with it.
What’s their impact on you?
We judge ourselves by our intention and yet we judge others by their impact. Be sensitive and respectful if you give someone feedback on their impact. Consider their intention and be careful not to criticise. Ask for what you would like from them, rather than complain about what you don’t like!
Think back to when you have criticised – what was the outcome? I’m guessing not generally very positive. However, if you get genuinely curious about the other person’s intention and what lead them to take the action you are criticising, you might understand more and consequently feel more empathy. Really listen to their perspective – put yourself in their shoes and take care not to get defensive.
Notice how you are feeling before you go into any interaction and be honest with the other person if you think your feelings might impact what you’re about to say. If your feelings are not going to support your intention, its best to deal with them before you have the conversation. If you use a critical and angry tone to ask why someone has done something, all they will hear is your criticism and anger, even if what you say is reasonable. Let them know your intention and remember, you may think you can hide your feelings by saying something “the right way”, but think again if your impact doesn’t match your intention!
Find out more about how you can manage your feelings and emotions here.