The Paradox of “Intent”

woman driving

In our quest to excel at storyfinding – uncovering what our prospects and clients truly want and need through conversation – we need to know that sabotage lurks in our intent.

While it is essential to prepare for our conversations, and to know the outcome we seek, keeping our intent top of mind dulls our curiosity, obstructs our listening and amplifies our assumptions. At the same time, intent allows us to lead, support and even mentor our prospects and clients.

Embracing this duality, the ability of our intent to both help and hinder us, is how we become masters of great conversations.

How can we “manage” our intent? And how will this change our conversations?

The word intent comes to us from early 13th century Old French (entent, entente) meaning goal, end, aim, purpose, attention. When it comes to both sales and customer service, we put a lot of energy into defining our purpose and setting our goals.

And rightly so. Where would my company be if I hadn’t set goals? What would happen to this blog if I didn’t give it my attention? How much would I enjoy my work if I wasn’t clear on its purpose?

Clarity is the first step towards managing intent. Before you pick up that phone, turn on that camera or walk into that meeting, be absolutely clear on where you want to go, what you want to accomplish.

And then, when the conversation begins, set this intent aside. Don’t forget about it, but don’t allow it to be the engine that drives the conversation.

Here’s a visual: It’s a warm sunny day and you are headed to a friend’s cottage. You’ve set the intention of being there by 1 pm. Your focus is on this arrival time. With your eye on the clock and your outcome firmly established, you miss out on much of what the drive has to offer – beautiful scenery, handmade ice cream, antiques. Of course, this gives you more time at the cottage and with your friend, but there was so much more to experience.

Now take that same drive, that same intent of getting to the cottage, but set aside the need to arrive at 1 pm. What happens? You create an adventure. Perhaps you still arrive at 1 pm, or perhaps later in the afternoon, but you have a deep appreciation for your friend’s summer home. Maybe you even arrive with fresh corn and strawberries from a roadside stand. You’ve not only added to your own enjoyment but that of your friend as well.

It is the same with conversations. Of course, we want to make the sale and satisfy our customers. This can’t be forgotten. But the how of achieving this lies in what our prospects and clients share with us, not in our rigid commitment to our intended outcome.

#InspireConversation

Explore more articles about storyfinding here.

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4 thoughts on “The Paradox of “Intent””

  1. This is similar to the paradox of research- know and have a plan, but be curious and prepare for the unexpected. embracing knowing and not knowing. Intent with open mindedness.
    Sounds like a good road trip too.

    Reply
    • Yes, this is similar to the paradox of research. Thanks for sharing this, Sara. When we get caught up in perfecting our research, we don’t act, i.e. we don’t make the necessary calls thinking we need to do more research. A common challenge I work with often. Really appreciate your comments.

      Reply

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