Have you ever walked into a meeting or joined in on a phone conference that went the wrong direction? Maybe it could have gone better with just a little pre-planning, specifically to set your intentions for that particular communication transaction. The power of setting your intentions before communicating is that it helps you to focus on what you want to have happen instead of being buffeted every which way by feelings, random thoughts, distractions or even the reactions of your listeners.
For example, suppose you need to provide some information to your team about potential layoffs. You start to worry about how they will react. Suddenly you feel anxious and your words don’t flow right. You either become too blunt or too “soft” when sharing the news. Instead of slipping into this downward spiral, next time try setting your intention before you speak. In this case, you might decide your role is to be empathetic but straightforward about the news. This mindset helps you to focus on providing complete information while delivering it in a compassionate way. And it reminds you to stick to that style no matter how listeners react.
In other situations, your intention might be to speak with courtesy to an abrasive customer, or listen with patience to a long-winded relative. Or to listen to feedback without getting defensive. Or to listen logically as the doctor explains treatment options. See how it works? Once you set your intention about the communication, your behavior naturally follows. And if you do find yourself off-course, reminding yourself of your intention might be all you need to get back on track.
How do you set an intention? I simply take a few quiet moments, usually early in my day, to think about how I plan to show up for the commitments, conversations and meetings I have scheduled. A few minutes before each one, I take a moment to remind myself exactly what my intention is. I find I don’t need to script what I am going to say or worry about the words I need, as long as I am clear in my intention. And I definitely notice less confidence and clarity when I am not speaking with a clear intention.
Next time you have a challenging meeting, a difficult conversation or an important communication situation, try setting your intentions and see how it helps make you a more effective communicator.