People will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. Intent does not equal impact.
We each are seeing the world differently. It is hard for us to remember this. Since things seem so obvious to us, we assume that others are “getting it.” More times than we imagine—they are not. We each have different experiences and thus our conditioning has us pay attention to different things. Millions of bits of sensory data are available every second and only a small portion can get through. We are seeing and hearing different things than the person next to us.
A leader texted his team member, Jerry, that he didn’t need to attend a meeting. Jerry immediately assumed he had done something wrong and became anxious. He felt it was rude of his boss to send such a note and not talk with him directly. Jerry told fellow team members that he did not feel valued. Jerry assumed the worst and experienced stress. Based on research called the fundamental attribution error, we are wired to assume negative motivations of others. This disposition along with our negativity bias helps us to be prepared in the face of potential danger. However the cost can be high for all involved. It turns out the leader thought he was being helpful to Jerry since he knew Jerry had a lot on his plate. The leader thought he was being kind by relieving Jerry of attending the meeting since he would be there.
This simple misunderstanding cost time, energy and good will of Jerry and his coworkers. The climate of the workplace had become fearful. The manager had no idea of the impact of his action until later when he had to deal with Jerry and the team’s negative engagement and decline in outcomes.
Unfortunately, these kinds of misunderstandings happen frequently and cost time, energy, good will and money.
Jerry would have benefited from checking out his assumptions by engaging in a conversation with his manager. His boss would have benefited by sharing his intention behind his request.
Make it a habit of sharing your positive intentions and check to make sure people are receiving your requests and comments in a positive way. Try to engage in respectful conversations when possible.