“To what end?” I ask myself this question often before I write a speech, plan a presentation or even send a text message. We don’t always have the opportunity to plan what we’re going to say in conversations, but when we do, it can be really helpful to think about this question.
Case in point: I’ve been having some strained conversations with a friend lately. In my perspective, he seems to be a little “unaware” (pushing sarcasm here) of the effect his words and actions have on others. I’ve pointed this out directly to him many times. He’s rather like a kid running with scissors - laughing and smiling and having a grand 'ol time, until he stabs someone...emotionally, in this case.
Then, after he’s gored them with his (I think) reckless words or deeds, he says with much chagrin, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I wasn’t doing anything wrong.” In other words: “How unfortunate that you were standing there when I was running with my weapons of grade-school destruction. That’s too bad for you.”
Having been on the receiving end of said “scissors”, I’ve often wanted to light up his phone with reactive messages of frustration. Then, I ask myself: “To what end?” In other words:
What do I really want out of this conversation?
What do I really want out of this relationship?
What would make me happy to hear or do right now - and is this other person an integral part of that happening?
If they are, how can I manage the conversation towards where I need it to go?
If not, how do I graciously walk away and go towards what I want?
Yes, these are a lot of questions to think about when we’re in the exchanges of a live conversation...so it’s not always easy to answer these “on the fly”. But, what if we gave them thought beforehand?
Could our interactions with others improve if we took 5 minutes before a meeting, lunch, coffee break or team presentation to ask ourselves: “To what end? What is my intention for this conversation or speech?” Yes, I believe our conversations could improve, because when we have an intention, we have a goal...and that allows us to steer towards and land at what we want or need.
I always encourage my clients to “speak from the heart”- to go with what they truly feel must be said. And I believe this is something we can and should all do. There’s just one caveat: make sure your heart isn’t hurting when you speak from the heart. Hold a higher intention for yourself and for others. Place the goals of connection and understanding at the forefront of your intentions, and you can almost never go wrong.
I say almost because sometimes ya gotta grab the scissors from the other person and say, “Nope. Not today, Satan. Not today,” before they cut you with them again! ;)