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:
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:
which I included in Day 386: Clues.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- It’s so friggin’ cold out, here, that I soon realize that I have one sock off, as one foot starts to freeze.
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
Mysteries have been a theme of my recent blog posts. What has been my intent, in doing this? Arrrghh! Will these questions never end?