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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Palmer


Impact. I upset a client last week. That was not my intent, but my intent doesn’t matter. The impact of my words was the result of my word choice – an example that was careless and felt personal.

While I don’t believe (in most situations) we intend to inflict harm or hurt someone with our words, intent is irrelevant. How did we make someone feel? How did our words land? What did our actions say and did they comport with our word choice? It was shared with me that we often judge others on their impact while we judge ourselves on our intent.

“Assume positive intent” has long been a mantra for entering conversations believing that the other party intends no harm, has no ill will, and wants what is best. And while intent is all well and good, even well-intended statements and actions still have an impact on others.

  • Do you say you care about another and yet your actions don’t correlate?

  • Do you intend to be eligible for a promotion, say you are hard-working and are a team player – but the impact of missed deadlines, not raising your hand to contribute, or work quality speak otherwise?

  • Do you find yourself saying ‘I didn’t mean to…’ or ‘that wasn’t what I intended'?

Even if you assume positive intent, if the impact of what is said, the impact of what is done, the impact of the outcome is distinct from that intent, then it is impact that prevails.

Intent is about me; impact is about others. How did my words land with my child, friend, colleague.

What was the impact of my words or actions, no matter how well-intended they were.

The reality of my intended training example was an impact that broke trust and caused frustration. It doesn’t matter my intent – only the result. I appreciate the client feedback which is an opportunity to learn and grow from the experience; to do better in the future.

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