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I Want to Help, Does This Help?

Ratika Gore

Author: Ratika Gore

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 17:28

“This work is unacceptable! Surely you are capable of more hard work!”

I remembered saying this to my niece… perhaps sometimes a watered down version of it to a student too.

I was sitting in the recently held workshop in the faculty lounge when I thought about this. The team from the Center of Creative Leadership, Singapore had come to campus to conduct a 2-day workshop on effective leadership styles for faculty. There was one concept that personally impacted me tremendously, that was this concept of ‘Intention – Impact Gap’.

Let’s go back to what I remember saying to my niece “This work is unacceptable! Surely you are capable of more hard work!”. She would judge the communication on the impact it made on her. The take-away message for her would be “It’s never enough for my aunt ”, “Of course I have put in hard work, what does she know”, “Doesn’t she know I am a good student, why is she pushing me”?

On the other hand, I would judge the same communication on the intention I have behind what I say. The message I would feel I am giving out is “I care for you, I know you are capable of more”, “I don’t want you to accept mediocrity for yourself”, “You have to learn to push yourself”.

The gap lies here, right here between the intention and the impact. This gap you will find at the core of so many communication breakdowns, misunderstanding between otherwise objective people. How many times have you said something and have found the recipient reacting differently to what you expected? How many times have you thought about what your boss or a colleague has said and wondered if they were in their right mind. On a larger scale, many leaders create paths to changes in their organisations but very often they see slow results or serious resistance to changes.

So how does one work around it? The key to reducing the gap works two ways. If you communicate your intention, there is a high chance the listener will be more receptive to what you are saying. The other equally important way is to ask for feedback to understand the impact. A simple “Tell me what you feel about this” can open doors to far richer and effective conversations. A leader can communicate the intention or the logic behind a new policy and equally importantly genuinely seek feedback to understand the impact on the people and organisation.

On a personal level, how would it help me change the way I communicate? Going back to what I said to my niece, if I could go back in time I would probably have said something different, perhaps something like;“You know I care for you and that I feel you are capable of more. I really want to help you and I feel perhaps this one time you have not pushed yourself. I think this work is unacceptable. Surely you are capable of more hard work. Do you feel the same way?”




<p>Very well written, ma'am. Really liked the clarity of thought and expression</p>
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<p>Testing comment capability...</p>
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Good read!! I found the information presented in this article very educative and insightful. The writer has used a very catch phrase "Impact-intention gap" which helps to implant well the writer's message in the conscious mind of the reader. For an effective communication, be it peer to peer or subordinate-superior or vise-versa, it is very important to do an impact-intention analysis to ensure your thoughts are vocalized correctly to yield the desired effect. The use of phrase 'intention-impact' is very catchy.

Right on point M'am. The Intention-Impact Gap is the biggest worry these days especially when time for communication is short. Take for example, even in the corporate world : In most meetings, whether with clients,colleagues or bosses, the time we get to put forth our view point is limited. If our intent doesn't reach desired impact, the energy and many hours we spent on making proposals and presentations to help our company grow in its market share by giving an innovative solution in the product or services we sell will go in vain. In addition, it would have been a splendid idea, but your idea was not bought in by the company as your communication didn't have an impact. This would have led to market share losses for your company. Imagine, if it worked otherwise. It would have been a happy ending.

Good read!! I found the information presented in this article very educative and insightful. The writer has used a very catch phrase "Impact-intention gap" which helps to implant well the writer's message in the conscious mind of the reader. For an effective communication, be it peer to peer or subordinate-superior or vise-versa, it is very important to do an impact-intention analysis to ensure your thoughts are vocalized correctly to yield the desired effect. The use of phrase 'intention-impact' is very catchy. Communication can become mis-interpreted, misunderstood or even missed out if there is a large gap between the intent-impact of the speaker. It is very important to be aware of how our message is actually perceived by the other party. For winning any relationships be it personal or business, mastering of intent-impact analysis is a must. Intent-impact gap is something I feel every individual must have experienced in his life. I feel following things can help to bridge the gap. Before sending message accross one should recollect his thoughts and choose the words wisely. Other way could be by seeking feedback from the recepient.

Well written blog and useful in today’s world as communication is the key in everything. Take any situation, especially business meetings, job interviews or even at personal life we struggle to get the right impact. There may be several challenges, time may be limited or short the situation may not be favorable but the resultant impact of a message is the outcome of action and reaction based on your communication. One can adopt this technique to be more impactful.

Dear mam, Thank you for sharing a crucial insight about effective communication. As I was reading through the lines I could recollect a similar situation from childhood where I was on the receiving end my uncle on the other. I was in the seventh grade my Uncle, who is serving in the Indian navy had come to visit us. One fine morning, he tells me “Lad I am going to teach you to drive a car”. I jumped from by bed exuberant about the fact that finally I will be behind the wheels and know how the complex vehicle works. He started out with the initial instructions of “Turn the ignition, press the clutch, and change the gear from neutral to 1st, leave the clutch and press the accelerator”. I thought this is it. This is how one drives and all the while I awe of people who knew driving. Obliging his orders I just did as instructed but to my dismay the car jerked and stopped. I tried all my wits but that beast would hardly move a bit. He got agitated and shouted and I feared to me death. It was a slap to my self-esteem I was not able to operate a simple vehicle. I slogged through the day but I had no clue why wasn’t it moving. His constant lambastes and ridicule was getting on my nerves and eventually I started crying and told him I don’t understand your language and I don’t understand why you want me to learn. I will never drive. I think he could subtly get the fact that even though his instructions were clear they were not making any sense to me as I did not understand the mechanism behind. Immediately, he took me home. Brought out a pen and paper and drew the whole mechanism of clutch and gear and explained. He also emphasized on the importance to learn to drive as it will come handy. That was the moment we bridged the gap between intention and impact and the rest is history. Today as I drive, I often feel nostalgic about the fact how I begun.

Dear Ma’am, Reading your blog ‘I Want to Help, Does This Help?’ was an eye opener on some of the dynamics involved in communication between people. It clearly outlined the importance of transmitting one’s thoughts to the receiver in a manner which is not only easy to understand but also free from ambiguous interpretations. The simple example of the dialogue between your niece and yourself outlines the results of erroneous communication. Though very basic, the gap between impact and intentions would lead to unintended repercussions, many of which may be of the irreversible kind. As a person who aspires to be in positions of responsibility and leading teams, I understand that this aspect of communication is vital for me. The possible solution or remedy suggested by you was helpful and I would definitely try to apply it in real world scenarios. In my past work experience, I do recollect using the methods of communicating my intention and asking for feedback. Yet, I realize now that it was purely instinctive and was inconsistent from situation to situation. I would also like to add from my experiences that understanding the psyche of the receiver would go a long way in determining the method of giving feedback and whether it would actually help them. With the insights provided by you, I find it prudent to cultivate this subconscious behavior into a more professional and structured strategy while providing feedback in my work environment. Thank you

Like the proverbial slip between the cup and the lips, the gap between the intended communication and the impact of the same can have an undesired effect-sometimes counter-productive to the intent. Communication is a two-way process. While the sender has to ensure that the intention for the communication is clear, it is for the recipient to give a proper feedback as to our understanding of the communication. The sender has the responsibility to ensure that she obtains the feedback from the recipient. True. Communication is vital as it defines us. Most important is the correct way of communication as it decides whether the person buys your points or not. Besides packaging and gift wrapping our feedbacks it is very important to work on our tone and body language too this is basically part of non-verbal communication. To appreciate the importance of non verbal communication, we can emphasis on just a simple bright smile when we say congratulations as this reinforces the sincerity of our words. Further, I would like to bring few points here in this forum from our classroom discussions. Verbal communication can be enhanced when a person employs himself in effective listening. Listening doesn’t simply mean hearing. It necessitates you to understand another person’s viewpoint. One must take her time to think before she speaks to ensure that they clearly articulate themselves. I appreciate the example cited here; it reminds of many such similar scenarios in my life. There are many takeaways form this article. For me, I would like to focus on the awareness of what we say and how we say as it acts as the first step to successful communication.

The intention-impact gap, is something which mars the maximum communications. It is such a delicate gap, that if you miss a bit the whole communication goes haywire. A small gap and the communication becomes vulnerable to all sorts of misinterpretations, misunderstandings and at times even the whole of the communication is missed out. The art of making a communication free from ambiguous interpretations and attenuations is something which is very tough to understand and equally tough to practice. The major issue lies in the fact that this concept is hidden from a large mass. People actually strive hard to understand the reasons why the intention is not communicated the way it should be. This blog presents the whole concept and the issue behind this in such a simple manner. The example helps to relive moments where we can easily connect to the incident, Oh.! This could have been one of the reasons why the dialogue went wrong the other day. I personally hold an opinion that the emotions and facial expressions help a lot in bridging this gap and above all it’s the right placement of the words which brings forth the magic of communication. This is something which actually differentiates the normal speaker from an influential speaker.

The intention-impact gap invariably exists through a multitude of contexts and yet it's rarely spotted. An unidentified gap drives the perceptions in different directions, breaks the conversation and consequently, defeats the purpose of communication. The primitive agenda of communication is to share knowledge and information specific to a particular context that enhances understanding paramount to that context. However, the existence of the intention-impact gap is deterrent to the understanding, which doesn’t bode well for communication. The power of speech, which sets human beings apart, is supposed to help reduce ambiguity and misunderstandings in communication. The basic rule of effective communication says that the listener should be able to comprehend your words in a manner most relevant to your intentions. Yet, while we often think that we've done enough to make ourselves clear, the outcomes say otherwise. To this end, Prof. Ratika has presented a very simple example which shows that a small gap in an apparent harmless conversation can have a lasting impact. And if there is a gap between the intention and impact in the foundation of the communication, building on it would only magnify the distance. She has very neatly encapsulated the most critical aspect of communication, and shown that it’s no rocket science to identify and eliminate this gap, and make every conversation more comprehensive and fruitful.

Ratika Ma’am has made a very valid point and I completely agree with it. It is important that we identify communication gaps and are empathetic to the feelings of people around us. However, in this fast-paced lifestyle that we are leading, is it possible for us to be so empathetic practically to everyone around us? Sure, one can take special efforts to be nice to their children or their spouses or their in-laws to ensure that their personal relationships are healthy but what about people who we deal with on a daily basis and do not pay much attention to? What about the behaviour we show to that cafeteria guy who fails to put the right amount of sugar in our coffee? How fair are we when we yell and abuse at the driver in the next lane because “we think” he is not driving appropriately? These are the times when we are total failures in applying the impact-intention communication gap as we do not even try to understand the impact of our behaviour on the other person. Did we stop to think here that may be the cafeteria guy got pulled in for some other work at the last minute and has many other chores lined up for the day and hence has forgotten to put the right amount of sugar in our coffee or do we stop to think on the driver’s part that maybe he has had a really bad day at work today and is not in his best driving element? I really doubt. Addressing communication gaps should definitely start from our homes but should not be confined to the boundaries of our comfort zones such as home, office, society, etc. It should be applied to anyone and everyone that we meet because we can never understand the negative impact of our words on others but we can surely try to minimize the harm caused.

Dear Ma’am, thank you for this insightful and thought provoking article. It instantly took me back to the time I joined a new company as a team leader. Never having handled a team before, I was thrilled by the idea and was eager to make a great impression. “That is no way of talking to the client!” Is what I said to my reportee after my first client meeting with the team. I thought I was trying to explain to her the importance of proper communication, without realising the "Intention Impact Gap", it created. My Intention was that “We have to be careful while talking to our clients, any casualness can have a negative impact”. She would judge the communication on the impact it made on her “who is he?” “what does he know?” The impact was counterproductive to the extent that she stopped participating in the subsequent meetings, even the client wrote to me asking if she was okay. I later learnt and realised that the team had built a rapport with the client. I felt like a fool. Only if I had said something different, like “I am a little concerned about that the teams’ casual nature, it could set a negative image in front of the client. Don’t you agree?”, she might have have been more receptive and told me about their amity with the client. It is very important to understand the intention impact gap in today’s work culture, what we say and how we say it can help achieve desired results. A manager/leader who understands the concept and applies it to his/ her communication is perceived as more approachable, especially when the time to put forth an idea is limited. This concept should be ingrained in each one of us by constantly and consciously imbibing it over the years as it is not only vital in our professional lives but also makes us more adept at dealing with people at the personal front.

This is a great article Ma’am. I think the impact-intention gap is ubiquitous but more prevalent in the professional world. That is because in personal relations we still try to understand the other man’s perspective if not immediately, a little later. Acknowledging that the impact-intention gap does exist, works both ways. When you are the person giving the advice you tend to go that extra mile to make sure that the intent is well received and has the right impact. When you are at the receiving end you may give the speaker the benefit of doubt and may try to find out the real intention of the speaker. You can continue your conversation with the speaker trying to find out what made him think like that and finding out his real intent. A team which can understand the impact-intention gap can function much more effectively than the teams which do not understand or do not know that this exits. The misunderstanding can also be aggravated by written communication when its becomes even more difficult for the person who sends it to get across his intention right to the receiver. Its more likely that reader misunderstand’s the real intention. For this reason I think its more advisable for a person to directly talk to and avoid written communication if he intends to send something sensitive. I think communication breakdowns can be avoided to a large extent by following these.

Hi Ma’am, An excellent article. You have stepped on a very simple looking yet a very critical issue that most of us tend to not realise. The intent – impact gap situation is most commonly seen with kids. Almost all the kids experience, the pressure of studying and scoring in school, excelling in sports, developing other extra-curricular talents such as singing, dancing, drawing and painting, among others. And such pressures, in a majority of cases, are put on them, by their very own parents, whom they blindly trust and look up to the most. In some cases, it is found, that parents try to enforce their own dreams and aspirations on their children. Why is this? The most common justification is that, I want my child to be the best and better than his or her peer group, at everything. They fail to realise that that sentence should be – “I want my child to be the best as per his or her interests and abilities”. In trying to accomplish this, the most common outcome is the constant yelling at and hitting (especially in India and other eastern countries) of the child. The parents always think that they are helping their child find motivation to perform better. But seldom do they realize the actual impact it has on the child. As you have rightly pointed out, the child tends to develop an attitude where he or she thinks that they are just not good enough and their parents are disappointed in them. There is a constant fear of failure and a constant struggle for pleasing their parents, to hope to gain their love and respect. This, over a period of time, leads to a low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in the child. It distances the child from its parents. This often leads to serious psychological damages to the child, which often last a life time. Even worse, some may take this forward with their own kids as well. The intention – impact gap has a far graver consequence than most of us tend to think. A great example of this is illustrated in the movie “Taare Zamin Paar”, but we are not quite sure if the intention of the movie has had an impact on the intended audience. Thus, the question remains, I want to help, does it help?

Having worked in multinational organizations for the last 6 years has given me the opportunity to communicate with multi-various stakeholders. And due to the many instances of miscommunication and misunderstandings that I've observed and faced at work, I connect with the principle at the heart of this article at a very intrinsic level. I can vouch for the fact that just having the best intentions at heart is definitely not enough. In fact, the gap between intention and impact is sometimes so wide that it manages to create irrevocable rifts in business relations. I remember an instances where after a two hour long video conference with our Product Manager, my team came out feeling disgruntled and under recognized when in fact the same Manager had nominated us for "top achievers of the quarter" awards, all because of his cut and dry approach to communication. For most of us management graduates transitioning from deep seated engineering roles to those of people and team managers, the chasm between being "bullet-point" conversationalists to that of effective communicators is in fact quite wide. However, as quite aptly advised in this blog, the initial and maybe the most effective ways to address this is by actively seeking feedback and communicating intentions plainly. In interacting with fellow students across the batch and in my personal life, I have in many ways realised the same and see positive outcomes to my interpersonal relationships as a whole. With the corporate world becoming increasingly "flat" due to globalisation and with the international nature of our job responsibilities it is all the more important that we pay active and necessary interest in the way we go about communicating our strategies and ideas to cross-cultural teams and individuals. Implementing such suggestions as in this blog and constantly introspecting on one's shortcomings is definitely the need of the hour for us future managers. Thank you for your advice on this front.

Great Share Ma’am!! After reading your post, I felt that how poor communicator I am in my day to day life. I am not ashamed to accept this fact. Rather, after going through your article I eventually started thinking of incidences when I tried to communicate something to someone but ended with almost no intended result. I believe that things can go worse when intensions are not properly communicated to the person with whom I am communicating and want to have an impact on him / her. I am moved with the incidence which you had with your niece. I truly understand how far can that impact affect the child. I am of the strong opinion that a single statement can be interpreted in different ways and can have different impact depending on person and situations. The Intention – Impact gap is very important and should be taken care of in the foremost place. The suggestions proposed by you for diminishing the Intention – Impact gap; (a) by communicating one’s intention clearly without any ambiguity or (b) by asking feedback to understand the impact on the person; are very good. By asking feedback, we actually draw the attention of the listener and make them more concentrated towards our intentions. This will not only help to create a better image but also create a trust. Apart from this, the article had a great impact on me. I am a mother of one-and-a-half-year-old daughter and always imagine and make master game plans for nurturing her. But I also believe that these master plans will all go in vain in practical situations if I do not communicate my ideas to hear effectively. I am thankful to you for your small and insightful article which has impacted me positively and would help me to become a better communicator and a mother. THANK YOU!!!

Ratika ma’am introduces us to a very subtle nuance which is a critical factor for successful communication but is missed quite often. In quite a large number of organizational contexts and even in personal relationships we generally see two parties ending up in conflict, just because they are immune to the Intention-Impact gap. It is very important that we as management graduates understand the criticality of this important concept. This is one concept, if practiced and mastered, can help us at succeeding and being highly effective in most of our future communications at organizations or outside. In order to bring it to practice in our organizational context, it is imperative that we imbibe this mantra in our day-to-day communications with people and friends around. Consciously practicing this principle in our daily lives, will make it deep-rooted in our sub-conscious mind and only then we can extract the magical results out of it during our organizational communications. My younger brother always looks at me as a source of inspiration and career advice. I am from an engineering background and he is an economics student, so basically we are poles apart. I generally overlooked his queries and would give him very generic responses, based on my background, which hardly made any sense to him. Often he would come out with follow-up queries and I would end up giving him some random “gyan” which even confused him further. Some day he confronted me and made me realize, that my inputs don't work for his sphere. He could not apply the same principles to his career and also that his needs are different than mine. I was quite taken aback at this confrontation, but I gave him a patient ear. Finally, drawing insights over all his points, I came to realize the power of this “Intent-Impact” gap. If only I could have fine-tuned my experiences to align to his needs, perhaps he could have got better results using my advice. Now having learned the hard way, the principle sticks with me!!

It is a very thoughtful point put forward by Ratika ma’am & I thank her for drawing our attention to it. The intention – Impact gap is one that is often neglected when we communicate. When we are interact the basic element or purpose of it is to convey what we actually want to say or to understand what the other person is trying to convey. Now the basic challenge here is articulating one’s thoughts in a way that the listener will comprehend exactly what the speaker is trying to convey. The intentions of the speaker can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. Many of us have played this game wherein we describe the object to a person who is not able to see it & is supposed to draw based on our communication / intentions. We often observe a different picture drawn than what we thought we had communicated. Why does this happen? The simple reason is for this is the intention – impact gap. Communications can be complex. Bridging the intention-impact gap is of utmost importance for effective & fruitful communication. Asking for feedback & communicating the intentions are key to reducing the gap. However we can also focus our attention on the people we are addressing. Another way is to be mindful of what we are saying, comprehending it & paying attention to the emotions displayed by the listener. Seeking a feedback is very effective tool in nullifying the wrong interpretation. However it may not be always possible to ask for a feedback of everything that we communicate. In this scenario I feel that having a thorough understanding of what is being communicated will come to aid. If the speaker feels that some content of his speech can also be interpreted in a different way, he may rephrase it & again convey the message he was trying to make. Rephrasing & reemphasizing of one’s views & ideas will help in communication clarity. Intentions are of prime importance when we speak. So these intentions should be absorbed by the listener in the same wavelength. A good intention but a wrong phrasing of words can communicate harsh feelings wherein in contrast you wanted to be sympathetic or supportive. Seeking feedback, rephrasing the words to convey the right intent & repeating it will help in communicating clearly & correctly. Thus the gap between intention-impact can be minimized.

Such a great read Ma'am. It's extremely helpful!

I joined a start-up in 2012 and while I was being interviewed by the founder and the investor to become a part of the team, he made me go through a long list of written exercises primarily about what I want from this venture, my techno-commercial understanding and my long-term objective. In fact before I actually contributed to the startup, it almost took 4 months for me to get these things right. Almost every week, I would get irritated by the feedback I received from Hemant. Many times I concluded that I am just wasting my time as I was just trying to break my head with a perfectionist and that it might never work in my favour. I put in many hours to prepare for the response and what I got in reward was a redo. It took me two years to realize where the understanding gap is and where the intention gap lies. During this process I had learned so many things that about latest technology, the cloud communications and the ability to articulate the difference in quality of software code. I would have never learned any of these had I not understood the intentions of Hemant. All these things contributed so much to my ability that, my statements were taken note of and I officially represented my company in various seminars and presentations and my statements were provided to media as well. In 2015, while I was the national sales head for the Org. I headed the entire direct sales team and I changed the way we communicated with the customers. I adopted a different approach of mixing the pre-sales and sales from a single sales person to a advanced level. My team initially thought that I was being harsh and that it will not work. However, I made them adopt this approach and with a bit of resistance we moved forward. It was only in year 2016 when our efforts started to yield that they realized that the process was paying and that I was just trying to bring the best from them.

This topic according to me has a lot of variables that need to be looked into while discussing. During your lecture conducted on campus, I had raised a question which was duly answered by you, but somehow still doesn’t quite put to rest my apprehensions while broaching this topic. For example, one’s intentions may usually be extremely noble but the person on the receiving end will most of the times misconstrue the feelings/emotions put across no matter how well the speaker words his/her statements. According to me, to explain this topic better, one needs to be well versed with the rules of gambling even though it is an extreme comparison but when put in perspective makes sense. You (speaker) roll your dice (intent) and cannot really judge the outcome (impact) at the end of a conversation. There are just too many factors that need to be kept in mind while addressing a topic such as the mood of the recipient, the human nature of the recipient etc. These factors, if you know the recipient well enough, can be taken into account and the ‘you can do better’ statement be drafted accordingly. However, in a real life corporate environment where people are not familiar with each other, it would become a rather uphill task for the speaker to practice diplomacy at the same time give the recipient a slap on his/her wrist to buck up. All in all, it is a wonderful topic to discuss on and has been thought off and put together rather beautifully.

Very good comment Vijay. Nice thoughts...

An impactful article, Ratika Ma'am. Thanks for sharing the wisdom with us. Imposing tough love on closed ones or best employees, can really back fire. I could relate to every bit of it. This is very common in day-to-day conversation at workplaces, schools, colleges etc. in India. We, Indians, have always been trying to impose tough love on someone whom we think is capable of achieving or doing something which we are not capable of. However, it is always important to direct our behavior in a positive way. A very common example of this can be seen in our Indian education system where children, generally scoring marks above average, are forced to take up streams which their parents or relatives might they are capable of whereas, the real scenario changes when the same student ends of failing in the first exam. Another example, I've personally seen managers trying to be rude just so that the employee doesn't commit the same mistake again. Which, to me, is completely absurd. If you really want to teach that person, there would and are multiple ways which can help both, the manager and the employee learn and grow together. I must say, people at the higher authority and power should think vicariously and focus on developing emotional intelligence quotient rather than just the IQ. Having said this, I strongly recommend people to read "Emotional Intelligence 2.0" by Travis Bradberry, where he explain how to recognize, develop and grow your Emotional Quotient to deal with day to day situations in ones life. Teaching and Managing stuff by imposing Tough love, really is a myth.

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