Do You Judge Behaviors or Intentions?

August 1st, 2013 by Kelly Kienzle



We tend to judge ourselves based on our intentions and we judge others based on their behaviors.  Similarly, others judge themselves based on their intentions and they judge us based on our behaviors.

Here’s how that plays out at work:  A colleague did not get you his portion of the project by the agreed date.  You feel slighted or disrespected because you interpret this action as a judgment against you.  However your colleague had every intention to complete the project, but was perhaps too disorganized or distracted to deliver on time.  He certainly doesn’t view himself as a mean or spiteful person as a result.  He wonders why you are giving him the cold shoulder.  So, he responds similarly the next time he sees you.

And thus another “workplace misunderstanding” is born….

So, how do we stop this misstep?  How do we understand each others’ intentions so that behaviors are correctly interpreted?

We must view the person with fresh eyes.  We must occasionally refrain from judgment so that we can push the Reset Button on how we view that person.

Here’s a Reset Button exercise that I sometimes suggest to my coaching clients:

For one day, judge people only by their behaviors.  Do not make an assumption of what their intentions may have been.  Instead, assume positive intent and goodwill.

That night, consider what you observed and what shifted in your perception of them.  How did you see them differently?  How did you treat them differently?  How did they react differently to you?

It can be liberating to temporarily put aside the assumptions we have about our colleagues’ intentions and see them in a new way.  Because if you were to see them differently, what would change for you?


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

– Marcel Proust

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