The Human Condition: Intention and perception

Fuck I hate it when you say something and the person at the other end thinks that’s what you mean” said an uncomplicated friend.

I instantly agreed with the paradoxical statement. Of course language, our words hold power.

However, the power of the word is often overshadowed by two things — intention and perception.

If you’ve ever spent time in the company of a psychopath you’ll understand that words have very little bearing on conversations, they are simply little tools to manipulate, massage and file away for future accusations.

In the vacuum of life with a psychopath lies a code that only the trained eye can spy. It’s the intention which lies beneath any conversation. Let me give you a few examples.

“Hey, could you put the kettle on” she will gently ask you after you’ve completed a long day of work and just sat down to enjoy the silence.

THAT my friend is not really a request to put the kettle on, oh no. It is in fact a test to see how compliant you are feeling in that given moment.

“She is a very attractive woman” he will remark having just met a random person in a bar who may or may not carry those qualities.

Read — I’d just like to remind you that other women find me attractive so you’d better stay on your game.

And so over time words become weapons — sharper than knives (thanks Michael Hutchence) and you develop a laser focus to see through them straight into the intent of any given exchange.

And in this exhausting practice you may realise, at some point how much time you have dedicated to drawing together strings of random patterns in the attempt to predict intent and thereby avoid confrontation only to realise that your perception seems broken when the outcomes are random and unpredictable.

Thus the description of living on eggshells in an unhealthy relationship. It’s very difficult to know which way is up, particularly when you rely on words to explain this to you.

At some point you may realise that it is impossible to truly and accurately predict the intent of another person.

And you may decide at that point to shut off your ability to trust.

Or, you can choose this… Back to my friend.

My friend’s statement demonstrated that in a healthy, trusting relationship of whatever kind there’s a general assumption that two reasonable, compassionate and whole people can have a conversation which explores themes which may enable the expression of opinion, discourse or even include a heated debate.

Who knows, following the verbal interaction opinions may even change.

Usually this does not mean that the friendship will end, nor does it mean that a long, seething confrontation needs to ensue. It simply means that two sets of opinions accompanied by language are rubbing together to produce an understanding.

Your choice is to close shop, or stay open to the possibility of good intentions.

I know what I’m choosing.

Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash