Separating impact from intentions

When they say, “Why were you trying to hurt me?” they are really communicating two separate messages: first, “I know what you intended,” and, second, “I got hurt.” When we are the person accused, we focus only on the first message and ignore the second. Why? Because we feel the need to defend ourselves. Because Leo is so busy defending himself, he fails to hear that Lori is hurt. He doesn’t take in what this all means to her, how hurt she is, or why these issues are so painful. Working to understand what the other person is really saying is particularly important because when someone says “You intended to hurt me” that isn’t quite what they mean. A literal focus on intentions ends up clouding the conversation. Often we say “You intended to hurt me” when what we really mean is “You don’t care enough about me.” This is an important distinction.

Separating impact from intentions requires us to be aware of the automatic leap from “I was hurt” to “You intended to hurt me.” You can make this distinction by asking yourself three questions: 1. Actions: “What did the other person actually say or do?” 2. Impact: “What was the impact of this on me?” 3. Assumption: “Based on this impact, what assumption am I making about what the other person intended?” – Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen