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Words As Bridges: Communicating Intentions

“A conversation for possibility creates a context for a conversation for action.”

- Dennings (2003)


Every interaction with another person creates a moment of synchronization between our two worlds; without these moments, our worlds drift ever farther apart. Words are a mechanism to build bridges that help us to fulfill the needs and desires of ourselves and others.

Behind all words are intentions. Intentions are the act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result. Intention enacted, is choice with commitment. Commitments are linguistic acts.


Dennings (2003) argues that linguistic acts can be organized into three distinct types of conversations that if we begin to sense, we can begin to recognize what language commitments in each contribute to understanding and make the accomplishment of intent more likely.


1. Conversations for Disclosure

The only way to ensure that people understand what your intentions or feelings are is to commit to an honest expression of self through communication. In disclosing our intentions through communication, we reveal our needs and wants, as well as our interpretations for others. This act of honest expression, if equally shared and heard, can facilitate a space of balanced alignment between people.


In communicating intention or feelings we thereby acknowledge that as a speaker, ‘my individual experience of the world is not that same as a listener’ and ‘I have needs and wants which if known, you may choose to help me achieve.’ Only through sharing, can we make our inner truth known.


2. Conversations for Possibilities

If the exchange of inner truth is conclusive enough, it creates an opportunity for possibility between parties. Together, through communication, we can facilitate a process of building shared meaning. If explored honestly, this shared meaning should honour both party’s needs and desires. However, acknowledgement of how hard this seemingly straightforward act of linguistic commitment can be must be acknowledged.


We are all governed by internal programming and somatic responses; the results of a lifetime of built-in programming acquired through our own experience interacting with the world. Confidence and comfort expressing self and listening to others will be made easier if a specific set of lived experiences has instilled the value of listening and sharing.

Teaching each other methods of listening and sharing which validate and comfort us is crucial for the development of successful coordination and communication tactics for action.


3. Conversations for Action

Getting to a space of action through conversation requires awareness of both self and others. Effective listening is essential for effective disclosure. It is not enough to listen to our own internal conversations, moods, sensations, and emotions. We must also listen to how others listen to us. In doing so, intentions can be made clearer, commitments affirmed or altered as required.

Simple language commitments build opportunities for action which are based on authenticity and mutual respect.

  • Be open, be honest, be clear in voice and behaviour.

  • Use language which has actionable results: I request, I promise, I will provide, I accept.


  • The words ‘yes’, and ‘no’ are clear actionable commitments that hold meaning. Use their simple universality to your benefit.

  • Ask questions, listen intently, repeat and confirm.

  • Constantly try to observe our own observer’s actions and reactions to our words.

Communication is a tool we can use to better understand ourselves and others. Understanding that each human being is a distinct observer who’s interpretations of events need not agree with others, makes a commitment to communicate the bridge worth crossing.


Reference: Dennings, P. (2003). Accomplishment. Communication of the AMC, 46(7), 19-23.



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