When you apologize, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying sorry without really meaning it. You might be thinking about your reputation, how much money you’ll lose, or how other people will judge you. But when we say that an apology is meaningless—or “inauthentic”—we’re usually talking about intent. Intent is what’s on your mind: What are you trying to do? When we talk about impact instead of intention, we’re discussing the effects of our actions or words: How did they affect others? In this article, I’ll show that both are important when you apologize—and that by focusing too much on one side (either intent or impact) can lead to ineffective apologies and hurtful outcomes.
Intent vs. impact
Intent vs impact. What is more important?
The answer is both and neither—they are two sides of the same coin. They are not distinct entities, but rather just two different perspectives on the same idea. If you think about it, intent and impact are actually one in the same: intent refers to your goals or motivations for taking action, while impact refers to what happens as a result of those actions (whether or not they achieve those goals). While both have value in their own right, they are also connected by their shared attempt at achieving some goal.
What this means is that if you want to increase your impact on others’ lives or businesses through your speech and writing skills, then improving your self-awareness will help you do so since self-awareness allows us access into our own intentions first before we start acting them out externally (which includes all communication). In other words:
- The only way we can improve how others perceive us with regards to our communication skills is if we first improve upon how well we understand ourselves.*
So how do we go about doing that?
What’s important to me?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked yourself the question: “What’s more important to me, impact or intent?”
The answer is that intent matters less than impact. Impact is the result of what you do; it’s what happens as a result of your actions. Intent is your motivation for doing something—it’s what goes through your mind before acting on an idea or plan. The two are different because an action can have many different intents behind it; for example, if I write a book about how to find love in New York City and someone uses this information to find their soulmate, that person may have been motivated by wanting to improve his dating life or by wanting his parents’ approval. In both cases they had similar outcomes (finding love), but their motivations differed wildly (to get dates vs pleasing parents).
I believe that intent should not be used as evidence against someone when determining whether their actions are right or wrong because there are so many different intents behind every single thing we do in life!
Why it’s important to say sorry
- Say sorry, and mean it.
- Taking responsibility for your actions and showing empathy for others’ feelings can help you learn from your mistakes, which is important because mistakes are an inevitable part of life. No one is perfect, so let’s all start by admitting that!
Real world cases
Let’s take a look at how this plays out in the real world. Imagine that you’re talking to your friend about some of the problems you’re having with your boss. Your friend says something like, “What is it with that guy? He never listens.”
When you share this with me, I respond by saying: “Well, if it were up to me, I’d fire his butt.”
You may be surprised to learn that this is not necessarily an example of showing empathy or taking responsibility. To understand why, let’s break down each component of these terms separately.
It is important to show empathy and admit when you made a mistake.
In the wake of a mistake, it is important to show empathy and admit when you made a mistake. Taking responsibility for your actions will help you in the long run, as it shows that you’re learning from your mistakes. By demonstrating these qualities, you can demonstrate that your intentions are pure.
A lack of empathy or an unwillingness to admit mistakes will have negative consequences for all parties involved. If someone makes a mistake at work but refuses to apologize or take responsibility for it—even if they didn’t mean any harm—their colleagues will find their behavior unprofessional and unapproachable. When people don’t understand why something happened, they assume it was intentional rather than accidental; this leads them to distrust those involved with the incident even more than usual
Ultimately, intent vs. impact is a question that will always plague us. It’s a tricky balance to strike, and it’s not something we can just solve once and for all. But hopefully this article has given you some insight into how this debate is playing out in real life: whether it’s deciding whether or not to apologize after making an error (or even deciding if your apology needs one), these principles are still at work under the surface of our decisions. And as we’ve seen from these examples, sometimes doing what feels right isn’t enough; sometimes you have to take into account how much harm was done by something before deciding what action should be taken next time around