BIG IDEA: Intent Does Not Equal Impact
In this series we’ll discuss the concepts of intent and impact in the context of interpersonal dynamics. We’ll also show how intent and impact are related to other important racial justice concepts like identity and privilege.
But before we dive in, let’s define some terms:
In any relationship, it’s inevitable that one person will hurt the other person by their words, actions, or inaction. We’ll call the person who did the hurting the offender, and the person who got hurt the offended.
Sometimes the offender is completely oblivious to the way or degree they have hurt the offended. In that case it is up to the offended to share with or confront the offender about how they have been hurt.
From there, the conversation can move forward in many different ways, depending on a myriad of factors. But usually the discussion will include the topics of intent (did the offender mean to hurt the offended) and impact (what was the actual outcome of the offender’s words or actions).
It can be so hard to hear that we have unintentionally hurt someone! We often impulsively react in one of two ways (or maybe both):
1) Make sure the offended knows we didn’t mean to hurt them
2) Attempt to minimize or dismiss the offended’s pain
Both of these responses are about trying to reduce our own discomfort as the offender. But the more loving, empathetic, mature response is to be more concerned with reducing the offended’s discomfort.
This week we’re going to make the following case: While discussion of an offender’s intent might be appropriate, if true healing is going to take place in a relationship, the offender is going to have to own and apologize for the impact of their words or actions, regardless of their intent.
Next time you see someone confront someone else about how they’ve been hurt, make observations about how these dynamics are at play. #ImpactNotIntent