Productive intent is a pre-requisite for a good conversation. Polished and thoughtful delivery definitely help – but, they’re secondary. People listen for intent before they listen to the words.
That is why the most productive conversations typically involve people who trust each other.
In the absence of deep trust, there are only two other routes to productive conversations. The first is to build a reputation for having good intent and to lean on it. And, the second is to signal intent early. Start with appreciation and the why behind your feedback before you give your feedback.
Intent is what people remember when they’ve long forgotten the words.
Humans invented the Axe around eight thousand years ago. It was one of the most powerful tools ever invented. And, its foremost use was cutting wood. While it went a long way in easing early human effort, it also had a dark side.
The Axe also became a powerful weapon when humans fought each other.
Many millennia later, tools and inventions continue to have a two sided nature. Overdosing on life saving medicines, for example, can kill us.
Similarly, technology analyst, Benedict Evans, shared a headline yesterday that likely brought a smile to the face of anyone reading it. Macedonian entrepreneurs have been making money by creating more than a hundred fake pro-Trump sites and sharing them on Facebook. As Ben Evans pointed out, try explaining that headline to someone ten years ago. Yes, we can use social media to connect with each other. But, we can also use it to waste huge amounts of time reading stuff that isn’t real.
All of this is a lovely reminder as we walk into our work desks today. We have an unparalleled array of technology and tools at our disposal. We could use these to learn, ship and make a positive difference. Or, we could be among the millions who only get to experience their other side.
It is on us to choose.