Intentions2If you’ve ever said or heard, “That’s not what I was trying to do,” an intention check might have helped your interaction.

It’s a three step process.

Step 1

This kata starts, like so many things in communication, with self-awareness. The first step is to know what you are trying to achieve. If your internal thoughts are muddy, there’s no way your communication will be clear. Ask yourself, “What do I really want here?” Know your goal for the interaction.

Sometimes you’re just curious. Sometimes you want the other person to do something. Sometimes you need them to know something. Or you want to recognize something they’ve done.  But knowing your purpose is the first step to clear communication.

You might also want to check that your intentions are honourable. Working with a client on this recently, she realized, when she checked her intentions that, what she was about to say was really a form of retaliation for something a colleague had said the previous day.  When she examined what she really wanted she moved to what was good for the team and the project.

Step 2

Once you’re clear on your intention, the next step is to share it. People can’t read your mind. What happens if people don’t have the facts about something? Yeah, they make stuff up.

So when I ask you if you got authorization from audit for some process change, you might conclude that:

  • I’m nagging you
  • I want to make you look bad for not doing it
  • I’m butting into your business
  • I’m trying to do your job
  • I’m just a jerk
  • etc.

You might think differently if I tell you the real reason. For example, I have to go to them to ask for something else and I just want to know if they’re in a good mood.

Telling people why always matters. When you expose your intentions, people don’t need to make up stories about why you’re doing something.

Step 3

The third step is to find out what they want from the interaction. That way, you don’t make stuff up about their intentions and assume the worst. Get curious, not furious. A question that works well, for me, is, “And you want that because . . .?”

In short, the more clear you are with yourself and with others about what’s going on, the more likely people are to interpret what you said as something close to what you intended.

This is the third post in this series of Communication Kata:

Communication Kata – The Series Begins

Communication Kata #1 – SCARF