By: Alyssa Anderson (Nu, University of Colorado)
This year has sparked change across the globe, causing us to think differently about how we connect, how we work and how we engage in our communities. As we consider how to be a part of positive change while furthering an inclusive Real. Strong. Women.® Experience, it is important to be acutely aware of any gaps that may exist between our intent and our impact. Alpha Chi Omegas have been engaging and will continue to engage in conversations about the shifts in our communities and how we can make a difference inside and outside of our chapters.
So how do we navigate and communicate in a world of change and difference? One approach is to consider any possible gaps between our intent and our impact in our communication. Our intent is what we hope to get across. We judge ourselves on our intent; we are well-intentioned women! Others judge us on the impact we have on them, and our impact isn’t always what we hoped it would be. We can all recall a time when someone else told us the impact of our actions or communication and we were surprised because that was not at all what we intended. We then backtrack to remedy our misstep and clarify our intent, but we can’t change the impact we had.
Often when we approach a difficult conversation, we come at it from a lens of how we would want to hear this message – and that is where we fail. Our mindset needs to shift to meet others where they are. When our intent and impact are aligned, we are effective in our communication without having to say, “Oh my gosh, that is not at all what I meant!” This requires us to be receptive to others when they give us feedback on how our message lands with them and how we can better engage in constructive dialogue when our opinions might not match those of others.
Here are a few ways to close the intent vs. impact gap:
- Get curious! Ask questions to better understand the other person and how they prefer to communicate.
- Practice self-awareness. Reflect on previous interactions and consider where you could shift.
- Listen intently. Listen to understand, not simply to respond.
- Observe others’ body language and facial expressions to gauge your impact.
- Ask for feedback.
We are challenged to think differently, to adjust our approach and to become comfortable with feedback as we continually embrace the differences in our communities. The work each Alpha Chi Omega is doing to better our sisterhood through trying times is not without growth and learning along the way. Leading with intent requires us to think differently and to reach across the differences that might seek to divide us. With each response and action, we must consider if our intention will be fulfilled or if our impact will have adverse effects. Remember to consider others’ preferences and needs and not just your positive intent as you navigate engaging through difference!