You learn something every day.

You learn something every day.

Well, you do if you pay attention.

I learned something important yesterday. Something very worthwhile that I should have seen myself, but, well my eyesight is sometimes clouded by all that crap I went through early in life. As much as I like to be kind and compassionate, some things still leap out of that darkness and bite me in the butt. Here is one thing I missed.

If you are at all familiar with any of my books, I have written about “Intent,” in reference to succeeding with difficult people. Here is the centerpiece of what I have talked about:

First, that it is important to understand the intent of a difficult person’s approach to you. Brinkman and Kirshner, in their book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand talk about four basic ‘intents’ (slightly paraphrased):

Behavior becomes more…

Controlling when the intent is to get it done

Perfectionistic when the intent is to get it right

Approval-seeking when the intent is to get along

Attention-getting when the intent is to get appreciated

I added: Difficult when people don’t care; when the intent is to be cared for.

As an example: I am a “get-er-done” person. I like to get things right, but what drives me is getting it done and I tend to have to spend a good bit of time and effort reworking things because I charge ahead getting ideas out on paper as fast as my fingers fly over the keyboard (if you can call my two-finger typing “flying.” Generally, “get-er-done” people can get on the nerves of “get-it-right” people, and vice-versa.

The above is all very practical, and it does help to think about such things when you are in difficult situations with difficult people. Intent matters.

It matters so much because it has to do with perspective. If I perceive something different from the way you do, then our only real hope at understanding is open communications – where we are each willing to listen to and understand the other. With difficult people you may have to take the high road and make the effort to understand their perspective, because they likely will not make an effort to understand yours.

All this is well and good, but what I learned yesterday is even more important: my wife said we should give people the benefit of the doubt and make an effort to see that their intent could be coming from somewhere positive, rather than just practical or negative.

That sounds pretty reasonable, but it isn’t necessarily easy. It isn’t easy because we often have learned responses to behaviors and those responses leap out of us – I talk about “reacting” in my books – because of negative things that have happened to us in the past.

Consider this what if the person who you think is attacking you in some way, putting you down in some way, trying to get you to see something in a different way, is doing so because they want to help you?

WOW! Right?

Yes, you may be right in that they could go about it in a better way than they are, too. But isn’t intent better than anything else. It’s the real root, and unless we pay attention, we won’t see that. I need to start paying more attention.

“I’m not good enough.” That’s what I was told and shown throughout my young life. It’s a tough thing to get past and one reason I emphasize building self-worth so much in my books. Unfortunately, life has a way of reminding us of the past, and it is hard not to feel “not good enough” when someone is “telling me things,” “trying to get me to see things in another way,” and so on.

This idea of taking a step back and thinking of another person’s intent from a more positive perspective has me thinking, I can tell you that. I will need to work on it. It ain’t going to be easy. But it is a great new way to help “take that step back” and observe rather than react.

Think about this a bit. Maybe you’ll learn something too.

Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome.


Joe Koob


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