Intention Bias vs Judging Behaviour

There is a hypocrisy most of us struggle with.

Intentions and behaviour are legitimate ways to evaluate human conduct.

The problem is that we are conveniently biased towards intentions when considering ourselves, and towards behaviour when evaluating other people.

We trust our own intentions – because we know ourselves pretty well. Not perfectly (but that’s a whole other topic).

Because we can’t see or feel the inner working of another’s mind, then we judge someone by what we can see – their behaviour.

Both intentions and behaviours are important and so the challenge is we need to apply them more uniformly.

Rarely would someone intend to reverse into someone else’s car. But focusing on our intent can limit us from taking responsibility for our behaviour. Despite my intentions, I did reverse into their car. So I’ll take responsibility, apologise and pay for the damages rather than drive away.

While intentions are important, they don’t atone for all behaviour.

“I didn’t mean for that comment to be sexist.”

Does our intention matter? Yes, but again rarely would someone intend to be sexist.

Even if we get feedback from the world – “That was a bit sexist” or “that was very sexist” or “We only have 27% women in leadership roles”, we have a tendency to place undue emphasis on our own intentions.

This limits us from taking responsibility for the ‘impact’ of our behaviour, or how these behaviours are contributing to the problem.

BlokeCoaching is a program for male executives within organisations to understand more about the behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality, take responsibility, and work to fix the system.

For most of us, we do not intend to be sexist. Yet it’s difficult for us to ignore that there is a problem that hasn’t gone away. The feedback is that there is still a lot of work to be done.

We all need to start taking responsibility.

And not drive off.