Intentions Versus Behaviors

A few months ago my good friend and broker Stuart Pearl invited Nicki and me to an evening event put on by his company, Ameriprise Financial, at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE).  It was a delightful evening of excellent food; a visit to the floor, including the one-and-only pit where business still is done the old-fashioned way: human beings screaming out their trades to each other; and the privilege of listening to one of the best speakers on the planet, Doug Lennick.

You can follow Doug on Twitter at @DougLennick. He is CEO and co-founder of the Lennick Aberman Group and the author and co-author of multiple business books, including Financial Intelligence: How to Make Smart, Value-Based Decisions with Your Money and Your Life.  Doug is legendary for his innovative approaches to developing high performance in individuals and organizations and is an expert at developing practical applications of the art and science of human behavior, financial and otherwise.

I listened to many profound pearls of wisdom from Mr. Lennick that night, but one in particular really hit home and I thought it important enough to share it with you in a blog.  I’m paraphrasing: We judge ourselves only by our good intentions, not our poorly conceived behaviors, but we judge others strictly by their “malevolent” behaviors, which we observe via our own subjective perspective.  Boy, is that the truth, I thought.  We’re so much easier on ourselves because we know we meant well, and so much harder on others because their good intentions don’t come into play, just the behaviors we subjectively view as so appalling.

You might want to think about that the next time you find yourself harshly judging someone’s behavior.  Perhaps you’ll speculate what the individual’s intentions might have been, instead of reacting so strongly to the behavior you disapprove of—in other words, give the person the same slack you’d give yourself.  That’s only fair, isn’t it?

I’ve been personally practicing this technique since the night I listened to Doug Lennick and I can report it’s proved to be a boon to establishing and preserving strong, healthy relationships.  I hope you’ll give it a try; I’m confident it’ll change your life for the better.  Do me a favor, after you implement it for a month or two, let me know how it’s working for you.