Visiting a favourite breakfast eatery for the best way to start the day (after exercise) inevitably provides opportunities for reflective insight. One such recent insight came regarding the request for skim milk on a serving of cereal; what I didn’t expect was the smaller serving size (than normal) to boot.
I initially felt miffed to have missed out. Then I thought that the staff might have safely assumed that the request for skim milk was diet-related (not taste-related) and that a smaller sized meal was inferred.
What I later appreciated, besides their assumption, if indeed my insight was correct, is they read my intent and, therefore, I read theirs as customer-focused.
Assessing The Intent
Most often we make a mistake of judging people according to their actions, and not their intent—what they actually meant by their actions, implicit of their thoughts and innermost feelings.
We take the end result and we assess that and, quite wrongly, attribute to them some sort of warped performance rating—we judge them because we’re left with the observable consequence of the action. We may jump from our thoughtful consideration to an instant reaction that’s based out of a modicum of frustration, unmet expectations, or spiritual fatigue etc.
We’ve all got the potential to become emotional and, therefore, opinionated in an unguarded moment.
The better way is to be reminded that below the observable is the discernible—the real reason people do the things they do. Assessing the intent is about swapping judgment for interpersonal intrigue; the spiritual sense to look beyond self and what the self is missing out on to see what is going on within the other person or within the interpersonal dynamic.
Actively Reading For The Signs Of Intent
How might we begin to look for the signs of intent—to engage in the science of discernment; a wisdom activity not at all obvious to the naked eye?
First, we must be consciously aware not all we see is as it appears. There are many reasons for a person’s action and we can’t possibly know, each time, what that reason or those reasons are. We have so little valid understanding.
Second, watching for the signs of intent is based out of a unique interest in the person before us, in knowing that they, like we, are an enigma.
Thirdly, just as watching for intent is reserving judgment, it makes no quick assumptions; indeed, such assumptions are diligently avoided.
Actively reading for the signs of intent is more of a pastime-of-love than a point-by-point lesson in human interaction. We studiously engage in momentary reflection.
Most people, as they interact with us, do things by purer motives then we assume. Issuing grace—the benefit of any doubt—is friendlier, fairer, and an act preventing potential regret for misjudgment.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.