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The Intention Trap

The Intention Trap

•Goal: We often make assumptions about another person’s intentions when we are communicating with them. We assume that if we feel something, it means the other person meant for us to feel like that. Assuming other people’s intentions can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding as well as lost opportunities, hurt feelings and unsuccessful collaborations, and often our assumptions may be wrong.
•Present the evidence: Assuming other people’s intentions or trying to read between the lines without getting clarification can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding as well as lost opportunities, hurt feelings and unsuccessful collaborations.

 •Demonstrate the technique: Notice when you are assuming intention and make a conscious decision to stop. When you notice you were not aware and have said something about another’s intentions, back up! Remind yourself that you are not a mind reader and you will get it wrong more often than not. Using I statements, you can gently inform the other person what you heard and the impact of it on you. This can help you gather additional information and remember that you may not know the entire story or you may have it wrong. Eventually you may also be able to use the assumption of positive intent.

•Opportunity to practice: ~ The best way to deal this problem is not to get into it in the first place and we can do it with awareness. Use I statements, “I feel…, I think…, I am not happy about…” as an expression of your own thoughts and feelings, not “you” as in “you make me feel, do, act…”   ~ Notice if you are making an interpretation of what the other person is saying.  Be honest with yourself – did they actually say those words, or did   they say something else.  When you ask this question, you are basically saying, “I interpret this sentence as…” Take ownership of your   interpretation and restate it as such.
•Suggestions for use (when, how): When there is a difference of opinion or disagreement with another, and there may be a risk of emtions running high or communication not being very clear or effective, this may be a good time to use this strategy.

 •Potential barriers to use and how to overcome: One big problem of many arguments is our assumptions about the other party’s intention. Feeling uncomfortable, fearful, unhappy, ignored, criticized, belittled, scared, humiliated, tired, overworked, unappreciated can all interfere with successful implementation of this skill set.  To overcome this,  we can ask ourselves, “Why is he/she saying it?” and we can try to “assume positive intent” and remember that we are all on the same team and nobody came to work today with the goal of making my life harder to doing bad work.

•Expected outcome: Improve communication, reduce unnecessary negative emotions or unproductive misunderstandings. We also expect this to facilitate effective discussion, allow positive behaviors, staying on task, and goal achievement.