Slow. Down. Stop and think about how your actions are going to be interpreted by others. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few weeks it’s that it doesn’t matter what your intentions are, it’s how other people perceive your actions. Think about it, if someone says “no offense” then chances are pretty good that whatever they are about to say next, it’s going to offend you. Instead of prefacing comments, why not take the time to craft your words in such a way that they won’t come across as offensive?

It’s true that you can’t control other people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a bit of extra time to think about how what you’re doing will be taken by others. I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t avoid telling people something that may hurt them at the moment that will help them grow in the long term. If they’re someone you are in a good relationship with, they’ll know that your words are meant to be constructive, not hurtful.

Of course, intentions go beyond the words we say, but even more often are about the actions we take. If you intend to make dinner for someone, but end up lighting their kitchen on fire because you weren’t paying attention, it doesn’t matter that you were originally trying to be nice, does it? If can also go the other way. You may not even consider that a small gesture you make might make someone’s day, but if they express gratitude, don’t brush it off as artificial.

Yes, it’s always best to stay true to yourself in everything that you do, but in the end, your relationships aren’t built on what you wanted to do, they evolve based on how what you do is interpreted by the rest of the world. Instead of being seen as inconsiderate or rude, a moment of pause can help that constructive criticism you’re about to offer to be seen as such. Taking the time to take your desires and how they’ll be seen by others in to account will almost always yield a better end result.

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