Charles Starrett

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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.

Listening to intention and impact

When we act, we are more aware of our intention — what we want the outcome of our action to be — rather than the impact — how the action is felt by others.

We focus on our intention, whereas people on the receiving end focus on our impact. Likewise, we focus on the impact other people’s actions have on us, and can only guess at what their true intentions were.

Because of these mismatched perspectives, when someone gets hurt by another person, there can be an assumption that the hurt was intentional. Or that the person who feels hurt should be understanding of good intentions.

The truth is that repairing a hurt relationship takes a little more work than that.

The first step to close the intention and impact gap is to trade experiences. To have an honest conversation, listening with an open mind of curiosity to share intention and impact with each other and see together what happened from each person’s perspective.

Then comes the hard work of apologies and forgiveness. This requires an open heart of compassion for ourselves, and for the other person. To take responsibility for actions that hurt, even if that was not our intention. And to forgive the person who hurt us, knowing that this happens in relationships.

The only thing which is guaranteed to make things worse, is pretending everything’s okay. If the relationship matters, then it’s worth going through the effort of listening to each other with an open mind and open heart to mend and move forward.

The bonus is that relationships which go through genuine and heartfelt hurt-heal cycles tend to grow stronger each time.

6 May 2022

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