Day 388: What was your intent?

I have (at least) two reasons for choosing today’s blog post title.

That is, I want to answer that question in my title — “What was your intent?” — regarding …. my choice of a title, today.

Okay!  Let’s start our engines, blog post riders! 1

Here’s some advice:

When somebody does or says something that you find confusing — when you do not know what to do (or say) in response to somebody else’s behavior — ask them this simple question, “What was your intent (in saying or doing such and such)?”

I have used this technique, and it can be quite effective.  Other people have told me they have found it effective, too.

In other words, I recommend asking that question.

Now, my wish might be that, at this point in our relationship — Me as Writer, You as Reader — that you might respond, “Yes, Ann!  We believe you!  We will do what you suggest!”

But that’s not realistic, is it?

So let me explain my recommendation, further:

As human beings, we tend to mind-read. Here’s the definition of mind reading, from this list of  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) distortions:

Mind reading.
Without individuals saying so, we know what they are thinking and why they act the way they do. For example, you assume that somebody is having a critical thought about you, you don’t check this out, and this affects your actions and feelings towards them.

So, asking “What was your intent?” is one way to apply the following “antidote“to a very human — but often unhelpful — thought process:

 Reality testing.  Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and concerns are realistic or true. This is a particularly effective response to the distortion of mind-reading.

Speaking for myself, I tend to NOT ask this question — in many instances where it could help improve interpersonal communication.

Instead of asking

What was your intent?

… I project my own experience and make assumptions about what the other person meant when they said or did something.

For example, last night, my boyfriend, Michael, and I had a “discussion” (translation: we got mad at each other, briefly). And in the course of this discussion, we both were “mind reading”  — making assumptions about each other’s intentions.  And we figured that out, and we’re fine.

Here are clues that you — or somebody else — might be mind reading, too. If you have these thoughts:

I don’t understand why this person did or said this!  This makes no sense to me!  If I were in that situation, I would NEVER do that!

And then, in an attempt to make meaning of what seems inexplicable, you then think:

This person must be trying to hurt me!

This person must not care about me!

This person must be a _____! 2

This is all evidence that Mind Reading might be in the house.

So just stop doing that, people! It’s not good for you!  It’s not good for your relationships!!

As if changing, like that, could be THAT easy. (But wouldn’t that be nice?)

However, here’s something you CAN do, in this situation.  Ask the other person this question:

What was your intent (in speaking or acting that way)?

And then, have an open mind to what the other person replies.  (Which is easier said than done, especially if you’re angry.)

I also want to say this:  in abusive relationships, this would not be an effective antidote. That is, some people’s intentions might be to hurt you (even though they won’t admit it). Actually, in this case, it doesn’t matter what the other person’s intention is — if they are hurting you consistently, get out of the house!

Boy, I sure am giving a lot of advice today. I’m not very comfortable giving advice, usually.

But I did today.

What was my intent, in doing that?

I thought it might be helpful.

Okay, so what remains for me to do, before I end this blog post? In other words, it’s time for the …

The Tying-Up-Loose-Ends Portion of Today’s Blog Post

In my opening sentence, I said I had at least two reasons for writing about this topic today. I’m not sure whether I’ve explored different reasons.  Perhaps I have.

One thing I DO know: I promised fellow blogger Mark Bialczak, in the Comments Section of yesterday’s post, that I would explain this photo:

Image

which I included in Day 386: Clues.

Mark wrote:

And the what-was-it from yesterday’s post. Are you going to share the elusive message down the line, or was it just a brain-teaser like that little game the put on the table at Cracker’s Barrel restaurants where you try to leave just one golf tee standing?

I don’t want to mind read here, but we, as humans, do that.  I think Mark was asking:

What was your intent?

I responded to Mark, in the comments section, like so:

What elusive message is it, to which you refer, Mark? I’m not being coy, I’m just losing track of all the hints and clues I’ve been putting out there in blog posts lately. If you ask directly for me to clear something up, I will do it, most happily.

In other words, I was asking:

What was your intent?

Mark wrote back:

OK, you put the shot of your one-socked foot on the floor with a kitty in the corner and asked what it meant. I’d love to know what you were going for with that one, Ann.

In other words …. Oh, you know.  He was asking: What was my intent in posting that photo?

This was my response:

I am going to attempt to answer your question in the blog I write today (Day 388). Thanks, as always.

Notice the stall — what some people might call “procrastination.”  That is, I didn’t answer his question when I first read it, last night. Instead, I waited until this morning. I waited until right now — this moment — to answer.

Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to answer that question: What was your intent?  Sometimes my intentions are complicated. Sometimes, I have multiple intentions. Sometimes, my intentions are both conscious and subconscious.

Confused?  You’re not alone.

But I will do my best, right now, in explaining what my intentions were, in posting that photo:

  1. I wanted to show another “mystery”3 — that is, when I sleep with socks on my feet, one of those socks often comes off during the night.
  2. I wanted to let people know that I am so engrossed in writing this blog, every day, that I can go downstairs to write, unaware that I have one sock on and one sock off.
  3. It’s so friggin’ cold out, here, that I soon realize that I have one sock off, as one foot starts to freeze.
  4. I am having this experience, frequently, as evidenced by the fact that the sock in this photo is brown, while the sock I mentioned in the previous blog post — Day  385: Wicked Pisser — was …. (drum roll): PURPLE!

Confused? Too Much Information?  It’s Mark’s fault!! (Hint: this would be a reference to another cognitive distortion:  Blaming.)

If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s my fault, because my intentions are often complicated. But, really, it’s nobody’s fault.

Maybe, to be clear and simple,  I should ask myself my own question, one more time. This time, I’ll ask it — not just about that photo or those particular blog posts — but about my writing this blog, in general.

What was (or is) your intent?

Simply and honestly?

To heal.

Okay!  That concludes our blog post for today.

Thanks to Michael, Mark, people who have questioned their own or other people’s intents, and to you — of course!! — for reading today.


  1.  Apparently I’m still using car metaphors.  By the way, if you read this blog regularly, the other driver who was involved in my minor fender bender still has not filed a claim (as far as I know).  I have theories about why that might be. If she were here, I could ask her, “What is your intent?” But she isn’t. So I’ll just have to guess.

  2. This would be the cognitive distortion of Name Calling — which we do to ourselves and to others, too, especially when we’re upset. I sometimes use the word “jerk” (to myself), when I’m mad at somebody.  Sometimes I use stronger language (to myself).   Here’s what I think we’re often saying, when we call somebody a “jerk” or “a _______”: “This person is NOT who I thought s/he was. Maybe they’re not a good match for me. Maybe I shouldn’t be with them.” And, dear readers, sometimes that is true. But often, it’s not. Confused? You’re not alone.

  3. Mysteries have been a theme of my recent blog posts. What has been my intent, in doing this?  Arrrghh!  Will these questions never end?

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “Day 388: What was your intent?

  1. Ha! I usually go with “Not sure what you were going for there…”
    But I also try hard not to get caught up in analysis. For my life now, most problems like that are handled by me telling myself “I got the girl. Everything else is noise.” Not that everything else isn’t important. Its just not that important.

  2. Love the question — of course, it requires my asking it without one hand on hip and attitude galore projecting off my body! 🙂

    It does make for a good bridge from confusion to conversation — when asked with my true desire to understand at heart.

  3. Thank you, Ann. You and I have our own evolving communication system right here in your comment section, I believe. That’s a very good thing. And today’s post included a great trigger to me of that line Felix Unger used in the old, scrappy TV show “The Odd Couple.” Writing on a board for Oscar Madison, Felix reiterated: “Don’t ASSUME. Because when you do, you make an Ass out of U and Me.” Those two never asked each other “what was your intent.”

    • Thank you for your continuing contributions to my blog, Mark. I know your intentions are good (and I don’t think I’m making an ass of myself with that assumption).

  4. I ask that question (or some variation of it) all of the time! At work, with my son, with my family, it’s a life saving question! Sometimes my boss is taking the long way around to get to a point or my son is confusing me with his words. “What is your intent?” Is a great question!

    • It is a great question, isn’t it? And I’m glad to hear how you’ve been using it so effectively in different parts of your life. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

  5. In in person conversations, an often quoted, and only partially accurate statistic that relates to the kind of things you are talking about is :

    “55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.”
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game

    Also, women tend to say a lot non-verbally that other women easily pick up on, but that men often have more difficulty picking up on, and it often leads to a lot of misunderstanding. So while I get that it can be annoying when people make false assumptions about someone, at the same time non-verbal cues are things that most women use intending for them to be picked up on and understood without even thinking about it, because it’s how people’s brains are wired, especially the female brain. I’ve had to research body language to understand it more myself, being a guy, and not having as much interpersonal relating experience as most people my age.

    Often times I think simply asking someone what they mean is an easy solution, but sometimes, like in my case with someone who I’ve told I’m taking a break from relationships early on in our recent friendship, where we have an understanding about it… when things in body language come up that seem to contradict our agreement (like her mirroring my body language for example), I could perceive that as her just trying to develop our friendship by fostering rapport and bonding when she sits by me, or that it could be wanting to try to get me to change my mind, as women tend to do that more with guys they are romantically interested in. There’s more to it all in this situation than I am explaining, but my point is that sometimes just asking, will make things awkward, and sometimes you may not be able to completely trust the answer you would get, and sometimes, like in my case with her, it’s better to just not even try to understand.

    Your situation with your boyfriend is different though, because you have an understanding and more developed relationship, so I get that. And your points made about interpretation with blogging and asking make total sense to me, and what I’ve said about body language doesn’t apply to that. I personally enjoy being asked to explain what I mean in my blogs when something isn’t clear to people, and like you, I think it would be better if in situations like that where there’s confusion, people would just ask.

    Often times people are afraid of asking if what they think something means is correct though, because sometimes they think they will look silly or something if they are wrong (that’s what a friend has told me at least), which is something I’ve run into, because apparently I am often hard to understand in my poetry and in the things I share. Many people think the best poetry is easy to understand and easily relatable, which may be what makes for the most popular poetry, but I mostly write poetry for my own creative enjoyment and to work out stressful things on my own heart and mind, and not to become a popular poet. So what is the best poetry in some people’s minds, may be true objectively, if you are aiming to make an impact on others. There’s no way to make a living off poetry though, and I am a social outcast who doesn’t want to be popular, so I have zero temptation to pursue renowned influence with my creativity! What is the best poetry for me, is subjective poetry, and that’s the kind of poetry I most often enjoy by others as well, and I’ll ask them what they mean if I really want to know!

    All in all, great post! I haven’t read many of your posts lately as I have been stepping back from WordPress some as it takes up a lot of time that I am trying to redirect to people I know more personally, but I haven’t given up on my wordpress friends! I am just having to limit myself some and shuffle my priorities some for my own emotional well-being 🙂

    • I’m so glad you are taking care of yourself, and I truly appreciate all the thought and heart you put into this comment. I learned a lot from you today. Many thanks (and my body language and tone — if you could experience them — would reflect gratitude now, too).

  6. hmmmm…..do you find yourself losing a sock on the nights that your boyfriend sleeps over? That might explain things 😉

    • Hmmmm. Well, you definitely assumed something there. Michael and I actually live together (so he’s here every night). My intent in this response is … to thank you for visiting and commenting.

      • Lol I didn’t realize u guys lived together….u probably said that in the past but my memory is horrible on stuff like that……hmmm, so then perhaps u lose the sock cause u move around a lot when your sleeping? I had a gf back in the day whose nickname (everybody called her this oddly) was two socks cuz she always slept with two socks, and always woke up wearing two socks….I had forgotten about her till I read your post today 🙂

      • I have no idea why I lose the sock, since it happens when I’m not conscious. I appreciate your trying to solve the mystery, though. I’m also grateful that nobody has ever called me “one-sock.” (Or any nickname, really, although I don’t think I would object to “Ace.”)

  7. New to this year of yours–noting you are already past day 365, but that only means I have a lot to read–but just wanted to say, Neat Stuff.

  8. Pingback: Day 389: Company | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  9. I didn’t need to ask the question this week, I only needed to withhold judgement for a spell…We’d called to make an appointment to visit a new lady in our congregation and she “hung up on us.” Or so it seemed. Was she not wanting us to visit? Was she not willing to be affiliated with us? I called back and was able to make the appointment. We visited and had a wonderful, spiritually uplifting visit, and made a new friend. I never did ask what happened with the initial call. Dropped call? Accidental? Battery died? Don’t know and it doesn’t matter. I withheld judgement and persevered, and all’s well that ends well.

  10. Morning, Ann, I read your WHAT IS THE INTENT yesterday or the day previous. Then I could not find the comment section—would you say I am a bit stressed? I am. My dilemma when writing on WordPress…MY INTENT is misunderstood…SOMETIMES.. Occasionally, I find people are way OFF determining the INTENT of my writing ..I have had reactions of both extremes on the same poem…one saying how negative it was, and the other saying how positive it was. YES–what is the INTENT–Of course, we bring our own perceptions and experiences to wherever we are at that point…and to truly listen to another…takes real focus…and the need not to layer our own message on the other person while they are speaking…and so the INTENT gets confused, I think sometimes, because of our lack of ability to truly listen…….but I do not know much….at this moment in my life, I am quite burnt out…I find your writing calmly to me because I see similarities in how we process information…LOL…yeah…imagine that???? LOL I am so happy YOU are writing this blog and that you visited mine and you are now following me and I am following you! “meetingmindssdnimgniteem “

    • Looks like you found the comment section, soon enough. I can relate to your reactions to your intent being misunderstood. Sometimes I think that’s why I don’t write poetry, because I can be so focused on communicating clearly. Although, creating something that people can find their own meanings in (even if it’s different from your intent) can be an amazing gift to give.

      Thanks so much for the gift of this comment. I am so glad we found each other on WordPress!

  11. Because we are a product of our upbringing and experiences, it is actually impossible for us to have a true “unbiased” thought about anything. Asking about “intent” would be helpful.

  12. Pingback: Day 440: Random Observations | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  13. Pingback: Day 624: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  14. Pingback: Day 1213: Intent | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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