Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Difference between Intent and Impact

 Imagine for a moment that I have just said something which has hurt your feelings. You tell me I have hurt you. I am shocked; I was aware of no desire to hurt you. I just wanted to make sure you understood my position, so I said it forcefully. Now if we are not careful we could get into an argument about who is right. I could maintain that I am totally innocent and you are much too sensitive for your own good. You could maintain that you were not born yesterday and you know when someone is hurting you.

The intent/impact model says that there is nothing to argue about: we are both right.
I am the world’s leading expert on my intent. The only way you can know what my
intent was is if I tell you. There is no way to argue against it. I am the authority.
Similarly you are the world’s leading expert on the impact my statement had on you.
The only way I can know what impact I had is for you to tell me. There is nothing to
argue about. You are the authority. We have each learned something about the other
and about ourselves.
Impact can be very different from our intent. I do not always appear to others the
way I do to myself. Only I can know my intent, and you will never know it if I don’t
tell you. But only you can know the impact I have, and I will never know it if you
don’t tell me.

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