Impact vs Intent: What Message are They Receiving?

I learned a lot of valuable lessons while working with Dr. Shauna Sobers on our Cultural Competence in the Classroom course, but one of the principles that has stuck with me the most is the principle of impact vs intent. I think there is a misconception that people who hurt other people with their words or actions always do it intentionally, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case.

Many times, we can have the best of intentions, but if our words or actions have a negative impact, we have a choice to make. We can blame the person who “misunderstood” our intent, or we can listen and take steps towards building a bridge to unity.

Let me give you an example: I saw a post on a FB group I’m in the other day from a photographer. It said something to affect of this: Please don’t make a post that says anything along the lines of “Looking for a photographer at a reasonable price, don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, or looking for an inexpensive photographer…” When you do this, you are either assuming that we charge unreasonable prices, are too expensive, or you are undervaluing our services. Instead, a request like “Looking for a photographer that can work under a budget of ____” or “Willing to get fewer photographs or do a mini-session for discounted rate” allows the photographer to choose and provide a package that fits and doesn’t undervalue their services.

Now, at first glance, posting something like “Looking for a photographer for a reasonable price” may seem like a very benign statement, but once the photographer explained why she was offended, it totally made sense. Listening to other’s reasoning on why the impact was negative will broaden your perspective in incredible ways.

In order to really embrace the concept of impact vs intent, we have to be willing to let go of our defensiveness and really listen to the other person. If you say something that has a negative impact on someone, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person, have bad character, or are mean spirited. It just may mean that you need to shift your perspective a little.

We have a fantastic 1-hour course on this! Click here, Cultural Competency in the Classroom: Communicating Well on This Journey Together, for more info!

This week I began thinking of this concept in the classroom. On Friday, a new Teaching by Reaching Podcast will go live where I interview Tate, my 5th grade son. He has a lot of 10 year old insight, and what really stands out to me is his perspective on whether or not his teachers like him, and why or why not. Our words are so powerful with students, and while our intention may simply be to get the class quiet or redirect a student, the way we go about it can have a huge impact – both positive and negative.

You are the most important person in the classroom. You set the climate. I know you are stressed and overwhelmed, and you have every right to be. I just want you to think about the impact you are having on your students. Are they on the negative end of your stress and overwhelm? Are you the positive force in their life?

On the podcast, Tate says, “I know I need to be redirected and put back on the right path sometimes! But I just don’t want them to yell at me or threaten me. I want to do the right thing. Sometimes I just get distracted.” Oh how true. We’ll talk more about this on next week’s blog, but be thinking about intent vs. impact. What impact do you have the world you live in? And if you accidently cause a negative impact, what are you willing to do to shift?

Let’s all take steps towards buidling alliances – in and out of the classroom!

Please check out the current live Teaching by Reaching podcast of that features Dr. Shauna Sobers, and be sure to subscribe to get the latest podcasts when they air!

If you are looking for easy-to-implement strategies to implement right now – virtually and in socially distanced classrooms, we also have our YouTube Channel: Jenn Kleiber

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Thank you for loving kids!

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