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Why you should pair strong content with soft intent

Combining a well thought out message with smooth intent is a match made in conversational heaven.

After 10 years of research and asking people why we don’t give feedback well, I’ve found that inevitably people say, “I don’t know how to say it. How to prepare. What exactly to put forward”. They are talking about the content of the conversation. If we are nervous or ill prepared, we can become anxious about how they will react so we fluff around and lose impact. We sometimes make the content so hidden under a rock that the other person walks away confused and unclear about what to do next. At worst their motivation, and your relationship, is damaged. At best, they are not impressed.

The two main reasons why the message suffers is a lack of confidence and lack of information. Your intent and your content. It’s easy to say, “just be confident, you’ve got this!” But we all know that doesn’t improve how we feel about having a tough conversation.

Information and confidence are things that we can improve. This is about us and well within our control. We don’t actually need to soften the content, just our delivery. Consider this: 10 per cent of conflicts are due to difference of opinion (content), while 90 per cent are due to tone (intent).

  • Content is what you say
  • Intent stems from why you are saying it.

Content is the easy bit. Well easier than you think. This is how we prepare and structure each and every conversation. It’s making sure we have enough examples and facts, have audited our opinions and feelings to make sure they are relevant and helpful, and are discussing the consequences of inaction or actions, to name but a few.

In terms of intent, if we enter in to a conversation with the right attitude, the right posture towards the other person and a kindness to ourselves, then it dramatically reduces tension and improves the outcome.

If the content is poor and the intent is not from a good place, then we have “damaging” conversations, which negatively affect relationships, trust and respect.

If we walk into the conversation with the best (authentic) intentions in place yet don’t work on what we need to say, then the conversations and its outcomes are aimless. We have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the interactions but we didn’t really talk about what we needed to.

When we make the time to work out the structure of the conversation, yet don’t take responsibility for why we are having the conversation, it comes across as transactional. Things are clear yet there is little connection between people.

If someone is well prepared when talking to you and takes full responsibility for their reactions, thoughts and actions, the conversation becomes remarkable.

After all, people hear your content but smell your intent

Getting the words, facts and examples clear is super important. Vital in fact. But working on where you are coming from is even more so.

Before you have that conversation, be still, breathe and ask yourself: What am I bringing to the conversation that will serve it? What am I bringing to the conversation that will detract from it? What’s my heart? My attitude? My thinking?

When we choose to bring clear content and good intent into each conversation we not only build better relationships, but also grow trust, respect, and create great cultures and strategies.

Georgia Murch is the best-selling author of “Fixing Feedback” and “Feedback Flow; The Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Embed Change in 90 Days”.

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