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Behavior and Intention


Lately I have been quite active on Twitter and have come across really thought-provoking discussion and tweets. Recently I read thread from Sahil Lavingia – CEO Gumroad about different between Behavior and Intention.

Behavior is what someone is doing, intention is why they’re doing it. You judge yourself based on your intention, and everyone else based on their behavior.

If we think more about it, most of the disagreement, misunderstanding happens because of judging people on their behavior. Intention is something that we assume people would be able to comprehend from our behavior. Often times people have their unique ways of understanding and making sense of your behavior. To elaborate more on this, I was talking to one of my friend who recently traveled to USA and he had similar experience of inferring people’s intention from their behavior. He mentioned that USA team-members are not as hard-working as India team-members and when we talked more about this, he mentioned that most of the team-members used to leave by 5 PM (Behavior) which means they are not as hard-working (Intention) as Indian team-mates. There are lots of cultural aspects which comes into play and would be difficult to infer the intention of the people. Sahil also wrote about this in another tweet.

Let’s say you don’t think a new team member is working out. You’re judging them based on their behavior. Ask them their intention — if it’s in the right place, work with them to get their behavior to match. If it’s not aligned, a change in behavior is unsustainable.

So next time when you judge someone’s (friends, family, colleagues) intention, make sure it is not based on the inference from their behavior. Even if it is inferred from their behavior, it always saves time and provides mental peace if you clarify the ‘intention’ with the person.