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  • Dr. Matt Zakreski

Intention versus Impact

**original post alert**

One of the most important concepts in therapy is what I call "intention vs. Impact."

We make so many choices throughout the day, and many of those choices are made with specific intentions in mind. We might be trying to do something for ourselves, to do something for others, or to get something we want.

When we make a choice, we know our intentions. And because we do, we intend to assume that other people know them, or can easily figure them out. We become blinded by our intentions.

When we make a choice, we give up a certain amount of control, because our actions impact other people. We cannot control the impact that our actions have on others. Unfortunately, this reality sets us up for conflict.

Imagine that you're walking down the street and you bump into someone coming out of a building. They fall down and break their leg. They're (understandably) upset. And our response tends to be: "Well I didn't MEAN to!!!"

Of course you didn't. No one sets out in the morning looking to cause harm. But it happens anyway.

To further the metaphor, not meaning to hurt someone doesn't mean their leg isn't broken.

When we get stuck in our intentions, we shut down our empathy. We have to make space for the impact of our actions to be different than we wanted or expected it to be. When someone shares the impact your actions had on them, we have to listen.

Once we connect the impact our actions had on others, we can put our intentions in context. Our intentions matter, too. But they're not the only side of the story.


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