That Wasn’t My Intention: Choosing Intentional Communication
Posted October 26, 2021 by Maureen Metcalf
Categories: Featured, Maureen, Sister Post
Do you find yourself in situations with family, friends, or in the workplace where you think, “that was not my intention”? What does it mean to be intentional? Often when feelings are hurt based on how information was conveyed or received, misperception is at its core. Misperception becomes assumptions and assumptions our reality. This may lead to misunderstanding another’s intention. To be aware of improved communication you must understand your intention to carry it out on purpose and with purpose.
Sadly, division is an outcome of poor communication. At one point, my sisters and I fell trap to these types of hiccups until we decided “no more.” We realized hurt or angry feelings often stemmed from not taking the time to ask the perceived offender, “was that your intention?” and 99% of the time if we did, it was a misperceived intention.
Having five sisters, we knew that if we were going to remain close, beyond the title of “sisters” and build deep connections, we had to be intentional about how we communicated with and about one another. One of the ways my sisters and I have avoided all the above for the past ten plus years is by making a commitment to one another to be aware of our communication flow, sharing of feelings, and asking clarifying questions. We have protected our sisterhood by not allowing complaints about one another and encouraging hurt feelings to be shared with the person who can remedy it…aka, no gossip! This code of communication was not the practice until we became intentional about it, holding one another accountable.
All too often, gossip, or laying a burden on someone who does not have all of the information nor the ability to remedy the situation, is not looking to solve a problem or resolve a conflict. Without the intention to avoid gossip, it will rob authentic conversations and hinder relationship growth. Gossip can creep in the form of venting, sharing feelings, asking others what they think, or seeking justification for a position and can easily spread like an infectious disease. None of us are immune to it, and without the intention to be aware of it and discourage it, gossip damages relationships.
Truth With Love
One of our sister values (intentions) is to protect our relationships by offering truth with love—hence, compassion. One without the other can be brutal. When you reflect on your family, friends, even the workplace dynamics, is gossip impacting relationships? Talking about versus talking to them creates division and simply is counterproductive to authentic relationships and genuine problem solving.
Do you find yourself gossiping or being on the receiving end? Would you like to start being intentional in problem solving in your relationships instead of gossiping? Do you want to offer truth with love by redirecting the individual(s) to the one who can solve the problem? You wonder how you can do this?
Consider saying something like this: “Thank you for considering me to be someone who can solve this problem. Before you share further, I want to encourage you instead to take this concern to the person it is with. My hope is this will empower you to resolve the problem and grow through the conflict with an improved relationship.” Then change the subject or remove yourself from the conversation. You will have set your boundary. Not only will you set a powerful example, but you will also leave the conversation not carrying added mental baggage that is not yours to carry or solve. I believe this boundary my sisters and I established has enabled us to dig deep in a safe place, offer feedback with truth and love, and not waste time diving into agendas that are not life-giving or fulfilling.
Let us be honest—living out intentionality is not easy. Often, it is hard to muster up what living with intention even means, especially times when we feel beaten and broken. But sometimes the very intentions we sisters have protected enable us to pull through tough seasons in our lives.
Being intentional must become a conscious choice, even if you are having a tough time seeing the path forward. My challenge to you this week is to pay attention to your conversations. Are there areas you need to set boundaries? Are there ways you can be more intentional about what you share and what you are willing to receive? Improved communication requires a commitment to clarity, checking perceived assumptions for misunderstanding, and the willingness to grow through conflict. Be willing to know for certain if your perceptions are correct and be the light in another’s struggle by encouraging them to do the same. My hope is you find the practice of intentional communication to be freeing and encouraging.