When discussing things like politically correct language or microaggressions, it’s always important to focus on the importance of IMPACT over INTENT. There was a white Mom on TikTok who did a video about how to care for her black daughter’s hair by saying it required a “crazy amount of conditioning.” Someone called her out by saying, “It’s only crazy if you’re white and you’re not used to it.” She posted a follow-up admitting she had committed a microaggression and pointing out what she SHOULD have said was, “If you are white you are going to need to use a lot more conditioner on your black child’s hair than you’re used to.”
Her intent was obviously not to offend anyone, but her impact was that using the word “crazy” to describe something perfectly normal was hurtful. And she very wisely admitted that and apologized.
So, I spend a lot of time reminding myself of impact v/s intent with everything from my relationship with my kids to my role in my community. I am a people pleaser, so that means I feel VERY BAD when I realized my impact has been to hurt someone and try my best to rectify it.
Unfortunately, I’ve been having to come to terms with something lately: There are certain kinds of toxic people who will constantly use impact v/s intent against you. Sometimes these people fall under the umbrellas of narcissists or gaslighters, but sometimes they’re just dealing with their own issues and using your behavior to their advantage. If you are an empath who worries about impact, even when your intent was good, you can get stuck in vicious cycles of feeling shame and trying to correct your behavior when dealing with someone who functions by manipulating all of your words and actions to their advantage. And THIS is where lessons about boundaries are important.
If you find yourself constantly having to evaluate your behavior because you are worried about upsetting someone, then some of that can be people pleasing, or rejection sensitivity dysphoria…caused by your interpretation of someone’s feelings. But, if you have a friend or family member who likes to constantly tell you how your actions hurt them, and if you have tried to adjust accordingly, then it may be time to set some boundaries.
Impact is worth considering over intent many times, but if you constantly find yourself thinking: But that’s not what I meant, with the same person over and over, then they may be dealing with their own shame and insecurities in a toxic way, using your empathy against you. YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON, you are just being used in a bad way. Yes, your impact may still be negative as compared to your intentions, but that can be weaponized to make you feel like you’re constantly having to adjust or walk on eggshells or apologize. And if that’s your relationship with one person? Then you might want to do some reading about boundaries.
I’m no expert and am very much working my way through some of this myself, but I wanted people to know that sometimes people use Impact vs Intent against you, especially if you’re a people pleasing empath. Just be aware of it.