Being honest about what we’re thinking

One of the toughest parts of coming to grips with how we communicate is being really honest with ourselves about our default intentions.

Default intention is that immediate, reflexive reaction that occurs in response to a stimulus. It’s a short-term, unproductive comment or response that doesn’t further relationships or results. 

I’ll give you an example.

The Congressman who represents my district in North Carolina does not share my beliefs and values. Not only that, he has a particularly, to my mind, callow and immature way of expressing himself. Recently he tweeted: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye” in reference to Liz Cheney being removed from her position.

As soon as I read this, I felt my irritation flare. Before five seconds had passed, I had mentally composed a tweet back to him that would also rate very high in immaturity (and also profanity, if I’m being honest).

I did not send the tweet. As soon as I found myself lashing out at him, I asked myself: what’s my intention? If I knew he would read it, what would I be trying to achieve? The answer: I wanted to shame him, to offend him, to make him feel as upset as I did.

We all know that this would not work! And even if it did, then what? Making other people feel bad is not a deliberate, productive intention that leads to great outcomes. I would have been choosing to communicate from a place of pettiness and anger. 

Acknowledging this reaction and naming it helped me move on from his dumb tweet. I shifted my mental state to a deliberate intention that is focused on my long-term goals and based on what’s important to me, not a flash-in-the-pan tweet that’s forgotten in four hours.

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