I think the “Why” of a matter is one of the most powerful questions that can be asked and answered. It is commonly said that the person that knows “how” will get the job; but he that knows “why” will be his boss. So, I was naturally delighted to find a book that tried to answer analytically why people can be difficult. That book is “Dealing with Difficult People: 24 lessons to bring out the best in everyone” by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschne. The book discussed the concept of “Intents”. That is the subject of our discussion today.
Let me illustrate the power of intents with an experience I had many years ago on my way back to Lagos from a speaking engagement in Ile-ife. Somewhere in the middle of the trip I struck up a conversation with lady sitting beside me and found her to be quite a pleasant person. She told me about her family, impending marriage, and more. On entering the Ikorodu axis of Lagos via Sagamu, we met a terrible traffic buildup. 5 minutes in the traffic stretched to 10 and then to 30 and we were still in it. Suddenly we were confronted with the reality of spending more time in the “go-slow” than even the time we had spent moving from Ibadan to Lagos! My friend started getting agitated as she was being called intermittently by her parents trying to find out where exactly she was as it was getting quite dark. She decided to take an Okada (commercial motorcycle) from where we were to her destination which was also in Ikorodu. I stopped the first free Okada that passed beside us and just as he was parking, 3 guys came out of from nowhere.
Speaking Yoruba, one of them (a massively huge guy whose biceps were bigger than my neck!) said to the Okada man who was still trying to get off the road and park properly, “come and carry our chairman”. Of cause the Okada man rightly told him that I had stopped him and he was about to negotiate with me. After initially taking a few steps to go (presumably to look for another one), the guy suddenly retraced this steps and said to the Okada man in a deep booming voice, “I said you should carry my chairman, you are telling me someone has stopped you? Let’s see who you will carry today”. He suddenly became very aggressive and started removing his shirt in preparation for a major scuffle. All entreaties by even “his chairman” fell on deaf ears. As far as he was concerned, it was a major insult on him for anyone to tell him that on his own turf.
Without any warning or notice, I was faced with a difficult person. Fighting the guy was not an option. As far as I could tell, he could comfortably beat me and the Okada man at the same time. Even if I felt could beat him up, physically assaulting another human being is not something I do. I looked beyond his actions and I simply asked myself, what was his intent? Why was he putting on this show? I quickly determined his intent was to “Get Appreciated” ( the other basic intents according to the framework are “Get it done”, “Get it right” and “Get noticed”). Switching quickly from English to Yoruba, I said to him “Omo iya, jo emi ni mo da duro” (meaning “Please my brother, I am the one that stopped him”). He looked at me quizzically and approached me to shake my hand. If you ask me to repeat the handshake, I possibly can’t remember all the twists, turns, and signs he did with his fingers. All I did was to follow his lead and mirror whatever he was doing. After the convoluted handshake, he smiled at me and walked to the others with him and said to them, “Omo aye wa ni ibe yen” (meaning an “initiate is over there”).
Don’t react to what people do. Rather address their intents.
Have a lovely week ahead.
NB: New #AreaDoctor video is out! You know how we dey do am now? Make you watch and share am. Life no get duplicate!