When Intentions Miss the Mark

Remember my post about trying too hard, and if not, here is the link to remind you. I received a lot of responses to that post. Many said it was the very thing that they needed to hear because they related to it.


But the most interesting response was from the leader that recognized herself in the post. She said, “Ouch! Thankfully, this type of behavior can be tamed with the help of an excellent coach. 😉”


Not my intent at all! I would never want to make anyone feel badly.


I quickly responded with “Ha-ha – I admire you so much. Please know this was not intended to hurt. Quite the opposite! Our work can inform others. You have addressed this and embraced the needed balance. I hope you know and feel that.”


On our next call we talked about it. I explained that she should feel good because she has come such a long way in recognizing the behaviors that weren’t working.


What I said to her was that one of the things we need to recognize is that our intent and our impact aren’t always the same thing. Her intent was to be helpful. Her intent was to add value.


The impact was often quite different. You can guess how adding too much value may make someone feel. Which is, it’s not good enough. I’m not good enough. Nothing is ever good enough for you.


Together we came up with a new way to try to match her impact to her intent, (which is how can I help). She now asks specific questions including What can I do to make your day better? Or what do you need from me right now? Or what would be most helpful?


A lot of times when somebody comes to us, we advise or interpret. We listen autobiographically and tend to respond in one of four ways:


1. Evaluate. We either agree or disagree. “I think you are ….”

2. Probe: Ask questions from own frame of reference. “Did you try…”

3. Advise: Give counsel based on our own experience. “If I were you, this is what I would do…”

4. Interpret: Explain others motives and behavior based on our own motives and behavior. “Here’s why I think they did that…”


Do any of those sound-like typical responses?


The Solution: Diagnose before you prescribe so that our intent can match our impact.


I learned I could have given her a heads up since I know she reads these posts every week. As she reads this, I trust she knows she is an inspiration to me and others.


Share some ways where your intent matched impact. I would love to see more examples.


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