Understanding and Syncing Intentions and Impacts

What is the difference between impact and intent? In the workplace, it can be the difference between building or breaking a relationship. Intent addresses the meaning or significance behind an action. On the other hand, impact addresses the resulting influence or effect of an action. Each day there is interaction between colleagues, resulting in various outcomes of their actions. These outcomes may affect individuals in a variety of ways, but few often take the time to consider the thoughts or intentions behind those actions.

On a personal level, time needs to be carefully utilized to think and process information prior to making decisions, writing emails, speaking out in meetings, communicating to others, etc. This seems simple in theory but in practice, society is moving so quickly in the workplace with many competing priorities that individuals feel as though they don’t have the time. If they would understand that a consideration of impacts and intentions could either strengthen or destroy a relationship, the time investment to do so would not be in question.

One of the critical components and top considerations of building trust is ensuring the positive impact of our decisions on others. Investing the time to think about how others may receive our actions requires a great amount of diligence.

An option to experiment with before an action is taken, said, or written is to go through a quick, two-part check list to govern your interaction with others. Are the words or actions being utilized relevant and kind? If the answer is not “yes” to both of these, the next step is to question the necessity to do or say what may be contemplated.

The impact of the brain on our actions should also be recognized. You see, the brain’s response to stimuli is amazing. Take the neocortex or the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This part, also known as the “thinking brain”, controls reasoning and critical thinking. Another part of the brain, the amygdala, also known as the “emotional brain”, primarily controls a person’s emotions. Here, the amygdala receives stimuli and responds to an event slightly faster than the prefrontal cortex. If emotions cannot be controlled and various triggers are not understood, the impact may turn out to be negative even if the intentions were positive. Learning to take a moment for the prefrontal cortex to decipher information and respond versus reacting (emotional brain), can make a world of difference ensuring your impact mirrors your intent.

Imagine what the work place would look like if everyone took 30 seconds to pause and think about the impact of their words and actions before responding. If you’re not convinced that you have the time or energy, conduct a small experiment. Think about the last three arguments, issues or negative situations you have experienced and whether it was your actions or that of the other person that led to the incident. You would probably agree it was due to your own actions because when a person is triggered, it can be drastically different than what happens once our thinking brain has kicked in and taken over.

Regardless of your intentions, others experience the impact. What kind of impact will you make?