Don't Tell Me You Meant To!
by Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
WARNING: This article contains an idea that may make you uncomfortable!!!
The other day I met a woman who had registered for my Living Richly™ program. She smiled and said,
"I meant to call you. I wanted to tell you why I wasn't at the seminar." At that moment, it hit me. Telling me you meant to do something is like telling me how unimportant that item was on your list! It simply never made it to the top. It was never worth the action step. Oh, perhaps, I was not worth your making the time for that action step. Is that the message you wanted me to have?
Have you ever had the experience of calling someone in business who responds by saying, 'I meant to call you."? Whatever good is that? Who cares what that person 'meant' to do, the only thing that matters is what they DID do. It is impossible to respond to what someone meant to do, isn't it?
This is so common. We let ourselves off the hook by using that phrase, 'I meant to'. Truly, when someone says that to me, I now say,
"No, you didn't mean to. If you had, it would have been done." Does that sound harsh? Or, just honest?
Yes, intention is a good beginning. It declares our determination to act in a particular way. Great start on the journey to success. We've all heard, though, that it can be a hellacious road.
One good thing about intention: it makes great conversation. Listen to a group of friends or colleagues chatting about how they will improve their lives.
"I'm giving up fried foods." 'I'm going to treat my wife/husband better and spend more time with her/him." "I am going to take a few days off and not do one thing." "I'm not answering emails on the weekends." "I'm going to have quiet time just for myself at least three days a week." "I'm joining a gym."
If you ask these folks for a progress report on their intentions a month from now, what do you think will be the answer from the majority of them?
"I meant to." Followed by a string of excuses why life intervened.
It's an epidemic. And, we collude with it. It goes like this: You tell me that you meant to call me but you got too busy and I tell you that I know how that goes. Next time, I can count on you to let me off the hook over something I intended to do but did not accomplish. Now, we both sound great--well-intended, conscious, thoughtful--and nothing got done. That's collusion!
OK, it may sound a bit harsh. But, isn't it true?
Would you rather have your friend say, "Sorry that I did not call you this week." or "I meant to call you this week."? The first is an apology that shows ownership of the behavior. The second is an attempt to wiggle off a hook in order to avoid conflict and garner approval. Mature adults say the first. Other people, the latter. What do you say?
(© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, Founder & Director, The Optimize! Institute, Escondido, CA All rights reserved.
Expert facilitator, Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, makes it easier to talk about difficult things. As an international speaker, facilitator, author and coach, she works with organizations, executives & entrepreneurs who want to master the ‘people skills’ that grease the wheels of business & life. Visit her website for ezines, teleseminars, books & CDs, free articles, online community, and a half-hour free coaching consultation. www.OptimizeInstitute.com