My audience member, Josh, was driving home from work when a speeding car came up behind him. The driver was aggressively dodging in and out of traffic. He tailgated Josh’s car before an opening came up and he swerved around Josh. He was driving like a crazy person. Josh reached out the window gave the other driver a one-finger salute. (Most of us can certainly relate, right?) Finally, they both come up to a stoplight where the cars were stacked up waiting to get through the intersection. Josh rolled down his window and yelled at the guy, “What’s wrong with you?!?!” The other driver responded, “My son’s in the hospital!” Have you ever seen someone try to block a speeder on the freeway? Maybe you’ve even done that yourself. Would you act differently if you knew the other person’s intent, if you knew that person was racing to get to their child in the hospital?
Thinking About Intent
When your end users or other customers act in ways that you think are irresponsible such as installing illegal software, you might think, understandably, that they’re trying to circumvent IT policies or rules. What if, instead, you assumed good intent, that they’re just trying to find a way to do their job? Perhaps, in the past, they’ve felt blocked by the IT department instead of supported, so what you see as an attempt to go around you is really just an attempt to complete a required task.
Are You Projecting Intent?
Some people project their own intent on others. They assume that, when someone is driving aggressively, such as the other driver in Josh’s experience, that they’re just a crazy driver, because they themselves have acted that way in the past.
Other people see bad intent because they’ve witnessed it in other people and, based on that experience, they falsely assume that everyone else has that same intent.
This is not meant to excuse the behavior, but to explain and understand it. When you understand it, perhaps you’ll take a different approach in how you deal with your end user or other customer.
Most people have good intent. Sure, there are some bad actors out there, but most people simply want to do their jobs and what we perceive as irresponsible or dishonest behavior may be driven by simple ignorance or past frustration with IT department policies or attitudes. When one person shows bad intent, don’t project that onto everyone else. Get in the habit of assuming good intent on the part of your customers, colleagues, and everyone.
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