Ever have a long work day and find yourself texting your partner, friends, family to chat at the end of it? Have you ever been the victim of someone being upset with you if you didn’t respond to them fast enough?
I love using a simple example like this because it can represent examples of both intention and self awareness. Many of us operate on autopilot, completely unaware of what our intentions are behind our actions. Our lack of awareness, depending how “extreme” it is, is often something we can get by doing until we can’t. Until someone calls us out on it, or until we hurt somebody, or until we keep having the same fights with our partners with no resolution in sight, or until something makes us “wake up” to ourselves.
In the case of the first question above, when you texted your friends after the long day, did you ever think about why you did it? Was it because you had a horrible day and needed someone to support you in a vent session? Was it because you had a great day and you wanted someone to celebrate with you? Was it because you just wanted to check in and see if they were okay?
The reasons sampled here are neither good nor bad, as that isn’t the point. The point is many times we don’t always consciously know why we’re messaging someone after a long day, making it risky if he or she doesn’t respond in the way we’re needing in that moment. And if we don’t know why we’re messaging, then we don’t know how to communicate what we’re actually needing. And when someone doesn’t meet those unknown needs, then we won’t how to resolve that disconnection we had that left us dissatisfied, angry, hurt, etc.
This is why intention is so important. Learning what our intentions are in anything we do is a skill of introspection, and it takes time to learn if we are new to it. It’s entirely doable though.
I typically recommend people start building this skill by being more aware of their actions. This can be in the form of writing or breaking down specific interactions that went well or didn’t go well in each day. In one column, write down what the interaction was about or what the goal was, if the outcome was indeed what you’d hoped for, what things were said by you in the interaction, etc.
Then break each of those down a bit in a second column, titled “why”. Why did you say the thing you said, why did you want that outcome, what would that outcome do for you, why did you respond the way you did. You can stop there or keep breaking it down 4-5 times until you get to a feeling you were trying to elicit. Most of our interactions have underlying feelings we’re trying to achieve. Respect, agreement, progress, confidence, support, etc.
If you want you want to go a step further, then do this same practice from the perspective of the person you were interacting with, but do it as if you were them. Break everything down again and see if you can find the intention and goals they had going into that interaction and how you may have missed each other or met each other.
This second part is tough sometimes because we don’t actually know what the other person is experiencing, but many of us have similarities in our drivers in life, even if they’re not all the same.
Which brings me back to the second question I asked at the top of this post. If someone is upset with you for not responding quickly, you can start to see that maybe they needed something in the interaction that you didn’t give them. While it’s not necessarily always your responsibility to be a mind reader, having the skill of seeing the intentions behind what you do and what someone does can help you be more objective in your responses.
Even further, having more clarity and understanding behind any of your intentions makes it easy to take accountability for yourself and become a confident individual in your skin. Taking accountability and ownership of ourselves is a powerful way to build self confidence and live in alignment and peace. To match our internal selves with our external selves.
When we get ourselves out of auto-pilot and more aware of why we do things, we are likely to make decisions, build relationships, and take action towards a more fulfilling life.
If you need help with this, hire someone to give you more tools, whether it’s a mental health specialist or a coach experienced in this work.