I can get pretty inward-focused when I’m working on a project, so much so that I tend not to pay much attention to what’s going on around me. I know I’m really absorbed when I start to notice small bruises on my legs and arms. They come from my banging into door jambs as I walk around oblivious to my surroundings, thinking about whatever I’m thinking about. That’s pathetic, isn’t it.
Door jambs are not my only victims. My husband also bears the brunt of this over-absorption. One evening I opened a kitchen cabinet door into his head, because I was thinking about a coaching client and forgot (probably didn’t even notice, frankly) that Rod was standing there. He yelped. I woke up.
I said, I’m sorry. I didn’t hurt you intentionally. It sounded as feeble coming out of my mouth as it sounds now. We both looked at each other and started to laugh, really belly laugh. My husband, rubbing the bump that was no doubt rising on his skull, said something to the effect, Oh, the pain is so much less now that I know your intention wasn’t to hurt me! That made us laugh even more.
Now when I do something clumsy or feeble like this, my husband says, I know. You didn’t hurt me intentionally.
Ok, he’s a saint sometimes. But I’m not off the hook simply because he knows it wasn’t intentional. I still hurt him, after all.
In conflict we may try to excuse impact when our intention wasn’t bad. We say things like, Well, I didn’t mean it! and expect that the other person should miraculously and instantaneously overcome the impact on them. That’s like asking my husband to stop feeling the pain from the bump on his head.
Good, benign or neutral intentions can still have negative impact. We don’t absolve ourselves of this simply because we didn’t mean it.