Impact vs Intent
Why are we the hardest on the ones we love? We say mean words, we use harsh tones and we push buttons. Maybe it’s because we know we are safe with them, we trust them, so we lower our personal behaviour standards. Maybe we know that they know us best and we figure they can discern our sincere moments from our blowing-off-steam moments. And when we are on the receiving end, why does it affect us so much? Maybe it is because we expect more from them. Maybe we know they love us and so we believe they should show us compassion in every interaction. However it plays out, those closest to us seem to suffer our wrath the most, and in turn, the hurts they inflict on us run the deepest.
But I’ve noticed that just because something impacts us personally, doesn’t mean it is personal. Separating impact and intent is important. When we try to make sense of a situation, we can attach all sorts of meaning to it. Often, we are searching for a reason why. And when we bring emotion into the picture, not only can it narrow our view, but it tends to make us reactive. We may feel hurt, surprised, disappointed, angry, jealous (and the list goes on) and then jump to conclusions.
Our experiences, relationships and beliefs all influence how we read a situation, but everyone’s history and connections are unique to them. So, when we view someone else’s actions or words through our own lens, the message can get warped. It’s not always a similar lens to the one through which the message was delivered. We can forget where the other person is coming from – his or her stresses, experiences - the context. When we feel the impact of a message emotionally, mentally and even physically – it feels personal – but was that the intent? Was that the goal of the message, or an unfortunate result? Did the actual message get lost in a messy delivery? Or maybe even our perception?
Now, I’m not saying that people are overly sensitive, or that all actions and words come from a place of kindness, far from it. But when you feel deeply impacted by something, it helps to pause and reflect on the source and the intent. Being open to more than one possible explanation can take some of the sting out of the wound, and open the door to resolution. Impact rarely equals intent.