When Good Intentions May Not Be Good Enough? Here’s Why!

November 5, 2016

I meant well!

I have your best interests at heart!

I was only trying to do the right thing…

Do these words sound familiar to you? Do you think these words?

This morning, I was chatting with a real estate agent friend who confided in me, “Coen, I always have my clients’ best intentions at heart! I always give them my best advice and I want the best for them! Why is it that they still do not listen to me, and end up making their own decisions? I have lost so many sales because of that! It frustrates and saddens me.”

I get where she was coming from. People who have the best intentions often suffer from what I call the “Myopia of Good Intentions”. We assume that just because “we meant well” so we will definitely succeed in our persuasion efforts…



This reminds me of my personal experiences a few years ago with two financial planner friends, let’s call them A and B. When A approached me to evaluate my insurance coverage and investment portfolios, it was at a time when I was looking to make some changes, so I agreed to meet up with him. After the initial fact-finding meeting, he wanted to meet me several more times, each time he would be sharing more and more information, philosophy and even invited me to several of his company’s talks. I went for them and learnt a lot, and I have shared in great depth what my professional and financial goals were. Each time I met A, I asked him “Ok, this is my situation, so what should I do?” He didn’t offer me any suggestions, but merely invited me to another presentation, another meeting.

That was when B entered the picture. When I asked her “what should I do?” She unequivocally gave me her suggestions. After doing my quick calculations, it didn’t take me long to decide because it made sense to me, I bought from B.

When A came to know about it, he was angry with me for wasting his time and even insinuated that I took advice from a less professional, opportunistic salesperson. As an entrepreneur myself and someone who’s experienced a lot of rejection, I can understand why he would be upset. Perhaps his upset was compounded by his self-righteousness that he has “the best intentions” and “doing the right thing”. Our relationship hasn’t been the same since that day.

What this whole episode illustrates is that your clients will always buy at their own terms, NOT at your terms. You can have the best intentions, but if your best intentions blind you from seeing their intentions, their needs, their wants, then they will make up their own minds. While I agree that more information is better, I have had good information from many sources. What I wanted was a quick resolution, not a long drawn out decision making process because I was focusing my time on growing my speaking and training business.

While I appreciated A’s best intentions, I felt fatigued by his approach. I wanted to make a quick decision and move on. His subsequent unhappiness, and accusation of my friend B was what irked me.

Going back to the scenario of the real estate agent. She told me that very often, she will hesitate to be more firm with her recommendations because she does not want to come across as “too pushy”. Furthermore, she believes that she is doing her best in helping the clients explore alternatives and options before making the best decisions.

So I asked her a simple question, “How do you usually make your purchase decisions?”

Not surprisingly, she shared that she would compare several alternatives and collect as much information about them before making her decision. She believes that she wants to make the best decision.

Here’s where the rub is. Different people have different personalities, different decision making styles, different triggers, different priorities. Some people may not like to collect too much information because they will be confused and suffer from “paralysis from analysis”. Some people may not have the time, nor interest to collect so much information to make the best decisions. They simply want to arrive at a decision and move on to other matters, such as their families, their business, their hobbies. Some people may already have made up their minds, but simply need some leadership, someone to give them the final push to make up their minds.

She was able to see how her positive intention was a blind spot for her, that she was serving her clients the way she herself wanted to be served, instead of the way they wanted to be served. Sometimes, even when she has completed a sale, she does not celebrate her win, but instead doubt herself whether she has given the client the best advice. In this way, she locks herself into a cycle of second guessing herself based on her best intentions to give the best advice.

What about you?

In what areas in your life have your best intentions been an obstacle instead of an aid?

How often do parents try to teach their children to obey because “I know best and have your best interest at heart”, only to have your children go do the exact opposite, or reluctant obedience leading to resentment?

How often do we get blindsided by our “best interests” and become self-righteous, self-justifying about our behaviors?

I am NOT saying you should not be a kind person, you should not care about doing your best, and that you should be a jerk. What I am saying is that while you in your heart that you have nothing but kind and positive intentions, you must continue to check in with yourself. Just because you have the “best intentions” does not mean that your ideas, your advice, your message will be taken by others. More importantly, don’t let yourself be blindsided by your best intentions, such that you become self-righteous.

I hope you’ve found this article to be useful…

Take it if it resonates with you… If not, just ignore it…

After all, I only have the best intentions…

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