Last week I said that I would begin talking about the concept of “Intent vs. Impact” . I believe this will prove to be a great guide in helping our children (and ourselves!)understand that sometimes what we say and intend are different than what is heard, and how the impact of our words can end up being hurtful, mean, or confusing when that isn’t the intent at all.
Have you ever had an unexpected impact on a person to whom you were communicating and had no understanding as to why? It happens! Even to those of us that consider ourselves to be excellent communicators! Having said that, you can imagine how easily children and adolescences fall into this trap without ever being aware of it. So what are some ways that we can get our kids to realize the importance of thinking before they act/speak. How can we help them communicate effectively, in-turn assisting them in making better, kinder choices when it comes to their words?
I was recently at a talk at my kids’ school and a parent mentioned being upset that their child said “he was acting so gay… it was annoying” as he was referring to the behavior of a friend. The parent didn’t know what to say about the sons choice of words so admittedly said nothing.
Lets break this down:
1. Did the boy intend to say he thinks his friend is gay?
2. Does he think the boy would be upset if he heard him use the word “gay” when referring to his behavior?
3. What is gay behavior in the eyes of a Junior High School student?
4. What if there was somebody within earshot who is struggling with their identity… how would it make that person feel?
5. How would it make the boy feel if one of his friends said that about him?
Clearly the above example is something that will likely happen in Junior High and beyond, but no matter the age of your child(ren), I’m sure you can plug-in your own scenario and end up with a similar set of issues. So given that, what can be done if we realize that there is a mismatch between our intent and our impact on a colleague, friend, or someone at home? Here are some questions we might ask ourselves:
1. What just happened?
2. How is the outcome different from what I intended/expected?
3. Where can I take responsibility?
4. How do I make this right?
In striving to make things right, you can take the following steps:
1. Act quickly to address the situation… don’t let the “bad” linger
2. Be honest about your intention. Talk with the other person about what they heard and how it made them feel.
3. How might you communication more effectively or differently in the future?
4. Take responsibility for your words and actions.
My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent.
~ Ulysses S. Grant ~
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic, so you can expect on-going dialogue for a few weeks. Check back and see what others are saying and further, share your own scenarios and solutions with us. We love hearing from you!
Until next time…