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When Intent Does Not Match Outcome

All communication starts with intent. We hope to achieve something by sending the message. We then take action — either an e-mail, a phone call, a written letter or some other form of communication. What happens next is the outcome.

Recently, a student relayed a story that really illustrated the problem with vague language in communication. She told the class that the young man who was renting an apartment from her had fallen behind in his rent payments. She decided to confront him and try to reach some agreement about the payments.

After trying to get full payment and having the young man repeatedly say apologetically that he simply did not have the money, she tried another approach. “I cannot afford to just let you live for free so, please, pay me as much as you can by the end of the week.” She left hopeful, feeling as though the young man was honest and that she had done more than enough to compromise.

However, the end of the week came and went with no payment. So, again, she confronted the young man. “I thought we agreed that you would pay me as much as you could by the end of the week,” she told him. “We did,” responded the young man. “But I couldn’t pay you anything.”

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