Today we are going to start with a few definitions from merriam-webster.com. We will begin with intent. Intent means “the act or fact of intending,” or “clearly formulated or planned intention.” Next, we will define intention, if only because the definition of intent is highly dependent upon the definition of intention. Intention means, among several other things, “a determination to act in a certain way,” “what one intends to do or bring about,” or “the product of attention directed to an object of knowledge.”
I am going to define intent as your vision of the state of things when you are finished with whatever it is you want to do. You can easily mistake intent for goals or strategy, but they are different things. Intent can encompass goals and strategy, but they are not necessary to it.
Intent is completely in your head. Only actions can bring intent to realization. This is made clear by the fact that it is very easy to intend to do something without ever taking action to do it. Strategy, tactics, goals, objectives, and milestones belong squarely within the realm of action. And it is in taking action that we can run into conflict.
So, we decide that there is a problem and then we intellectually solve that problem; this is intent. When we decide to take action we must deal with the environment. The environment is the people, organizations, geography, culture, politics, economics; anything that might have an effect on your intent.
Since our interest in this blog is conflict, we are going to concern ourselves with the people and organizations who might stand in the way of us achieving our intent. Having intent implies that you have an idea of where you are trying to go and what you want to achieve. When you come into contact with someone who disagrees with your intentions you can react appropriately or you can give in to your tendencies.
Say, for instance, you are normally a shark. Your tendency in conflict is to be aggressive. You happen upon another shark. The challenges that this shark present will inflict no harm upon your intentions; however, to get past this shark you will have to admit defeat. You now have a choice to admit defeat and carry on with your intentions unimpeded, or you can revert to your natural tendencies and contend and risk losing all you have.
Say you are teddy bear who prefers to yield for the sake of relationships. You run into a challenger who not only stands in the way of your intentions, you also realize you want nothing to do with them after this situation resolves. Do you give into your tendency to make concessions for the sake of a relationship you do not want to be a part of? Or do you decide that this is the perfect time to contend?
The point of this is that knowing what you want to accomplish is very instructive in determining the appropriate response to conflict. If you understand yourself you can overcome your conflict tendencies and begin to implement appropriate reactions to conflict that neither harm your intentions nor draw you into unnecessary conflict.
The dual concern model comes in handy as a tool for analyzing your tendencies. Once you realize your tendencies and your options in the face of conflict, you can also analyze the actions of others, using this model. If you know what you want to accomplish, know where you want to go, you can use the model as basis for determining the best course of action while protecting your intent. The best part is that if we are persistent and knowledgeable in using the dual concern model, we have a good chance of becoming owls who are good at reaching mutually agreeable situation in lieu of conflict.