So today, I’m watching a news network and the anchor has three panelists. To “balance” it out, there’s a GOP strategist, a Democratic strategist, and a “neutral” analyst. I don’t remember the question that the anchor asked (and it doesn’t really matter) because once the discussion got going, it got animated. There was a lot of energy and of course some disagreement between the GOP and Democrat.
It could have been either one but in this case it was the GOP guy who started “powering” over anything that was said contrary to his position. When the Dem countered, the GOP would cut him off and speak louder. All I could really hear was him; he didn’t call names and he wasn’t condescending, and – to be honest – what I could hear of his arguments even made sense (although I basically disagree with them).
After the discussion ended, I had an image of him talking to his friends who had watched the show and they were probably all saying “Wow! You blew him out of the water” or “You showed him” or “He couldn’t hold a candle to you” or something akin. Congratulations would abound.
That’s when it dawned on me, his intention – as far as I’m concerned – was not to have a discussion but to prove his point.
How Can I Use This to be Happier?
When someone asks me my advice, my first response (after confirming that they really want it) is always: “What’s your intention in what you’re doing?” Almost nothing matters more in one’s actions or communications than understanding the intention. Most people do not take the time to analyze that simple question and they find themselves in trouble.
Let’s take a simple example. You’re upset by an action someone else did. Your feelings are hurt. So, you decide that you “need to talk to her.” That’s fair; and if done well, it’s even “healthy.” But if the intention isn’t clear, you’ll get in hot water because your attitude will communicate louder than will your words. You might be able to massage what you say, but it’s a heck of a lot harder to adjust what you feel.
So, if your intention is to “give her a piece of your mind,” your communication will be much different than if it is to let go of some resentment or to better understand what she meant or to heal a rift. If you are looking to minimize the chance of conflict and actually accomplish something, slow down long enough to understand the intention (preferably BEFORE opening your mouth; but it’s never too late).
- Are you trying to be “right?”
- Are you looking to be close?
- Do you simply want to vent or “share?”
These few seconds of inner thought can save your hours of remorse.