In my experience, performances that are created with great intention are more meaningful, more evocative, and impact audiences more deeply. When a performer carefully and intentionally selects her music, crafts every piece of her costume, choreographs each step. When she is intentional about when she breathes, when she looks at the audience, and when she smiles …when she holds strong intentions for her thoughts, feelings, wants, appearance, movement, and experience, magic happens.
During a show an emcee may allude to a performer's intention in her introduction. It is, however, the performer's responsibility to convey her intention and align it to her behaviors. If this is done well, the impact of a performance on audience members will match closely with the performer's intention. If it doesn't, and the audience is confused, the performer knows that there is a misalignment. This same thing applies to learning development and to life.
It's difficult to feel heard, confident, and influential when your intention, behaviors and impact are not aligned. When you're feeling 'off,' stuck or just not getting the results you want. One of the first places to check is your intentions.
You can gain greater clarity and confidence by knowing the difference between implicit and explicit intentions, and knowing why being explicit is helpful.
An intention is a purpose, mission, and commitment to action. Simply put, an explicit intention is one that is known to others around you, likely because you told them. An implicit intention is one that is unknown to others around you. Learning objectives for a class are a great example of an explicit intention.
If you are going shopping for a new dress, you might share your explicit intention with a girlfriend that you want to buy a new dress. You might also have implicit intentions about how much money you want to spend, what brand or style you want, what length or material the dress is. You may want to make sure it's washable because you have young children, or you may choose one that is slightly snug because you plan on losing weight. You might want a dress that is made by a local artist, or made from organic cotton. Perhaps you want a dress that really makes a statement so you get noticed at a party, or is super sexy because you plan on asking someone out on a date.
In every interaction we have multiple intentions. Sometimes intentions can even compete with one another. The more you can identify your explicit and implicit intentions, the clearer you will be.
Here are three ways making your intentions explicit can help you:
1) Making intentions explicit helps bring you into the present moment, gets us in touch with your authentic self, and grounds you in your personal truth. When this happens you feel more confident because you know where you stand. You become more aware of your values, of why do the things you do, and of the choices you are empowered to make. Performing artists appear so incredibly confident because they are rooted in this strong sense of self – they know their intentions.
2) Being explicit with your intentions helps build trust and transparency. When someone knows what your purpose is in an interaction, it helps them be clearer on their own intentions. When you both know where you stand, you can better discover how to be an ally to one another. Sharing an intention is a great way to build connection, especially when stakes are high. At their core, most people have similar intentions: to be cared for, to ease suffering, to feel included, to be heard, to be loved.
3) Being explicit can help disarm and de-escalate a heated conversation. When you engage in a difficult discussion, tell the person up front what your intentions are and what you hope to accomplish. You can say something like, “My intention in having this conversation is to help find a solution that we can both walk away feeling good about. I want to listen to your side of the story, and then have you listen to mine so we can work together to figure this out.” It takes courage and vulnerability to share your authentic intentions. When you do, you can diffuse frustration, anger and fear.
You might be thinking: "Yea, but do I need to share all my intentions?" No, of course not, but it helps to be aware of them.
Most of the time we don’t pause to be consciously aware of our intentions. For example, if I were at a breakfast meeting and planning to give a talk I would have intentionally chosen an outfit to wear, or intentionally decided not to eat a poppy seed muffin for breakfast. The entire room doesn’t need to know why I’m wearing my purple dress today or that I didn’t want poppy seeds in my teeth. I don’t need to announce that to the room.
In reality, you probably aren’t going to share most of your intentions explicitly, but it still helps for you to know them so that you can decide when sharing them is the right thing to do.
Being grounded in your authentic self, feeling confident, building trust, and easing difficult conversations will help you be more influential.
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