Intention Bias vs Judging Behaviour

Intention Bias vs Judging Behaviour

There is a hypocrisy most of us struggle with.

Intentions and behaviour are legitimate ways to evaluate human conduct.

The problem is that we are conveniently biased towards intentions when considering ourselves, and towards behaviour when evaluating other people.

We trust our own intentions – because we know ourselves pretty well. Not perfectly (but that’s a whole other topic).

Because we can’t see or feel the inner working of another’s mind, then we judge someone by what we can see – their behaviour.

Both intentions and behaviours are important and so the challenge is we need to apply them more uniformly.

Rarely would someone intend to reverse into someone else’s car. But focusing on our intent can limit us from taking responsibility for our behaviour. Despite my intentions, I did reverse into their car. So I’ll take responsibility, apologise and pay for the damages rather than drive away.

While intentions are important, they don’t atone for all behaviour.

“I didn’t mean for that comment to be sexist.”

Does our intention matter? Yes, but again rarely would someone intend to be sexist.

Even if we get feedback from the world – “That was a bit sexist” or “that was very sexist” or “We only have 27% women in leadership roles”, we have a tendency to place undue emphasis on our own intentions.

This limits us from taking responsibility for the ‘impact’ of our behaviour, or how these behaviours are contributing to the problem.

BlokeCoaching is a program for male executives within organisations to understand more about the behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality, take responsibility, and work to fix the system.

For most of us, we do not intend to be sexist. Yet it’s difficult for us to ignore that there is a problem that hasn’t gone away. The feedback is that there is still a lot of work to be done.

We all need to start taking responsibility.

And not drive off.

Call me a Friend, rather than an Ally

Call me a Friend, rather than an Ally

This may sound a bit controversial, but please don’t call me an Ally.


I have always felt uncomfortable with the word ‘Ally’ and ‘Allyship’.

I understand the intention of the terms, and they are used broadly in contexts to signal connection between someone outside of a particular community to that community, and the efforts to provide support, advocacy or championing, and to use the power they have to do good for that community.

I never call myself an Ally because for one I think it’s uncomfortable to self-appoint as an Ally, but I also feel uncomfortable when someone thanks me for being an Ally.

The word ‘Ally’ makes me feel like I’m taking a side. And furthermore, I fear that it can make allies think that they are no longer contributing to the problem.

Allies can think that they are on the ‘right’ side. Allies can think that other people are the problem.

We are still part of the problem.

All ‘Allies’ are still part of the problem.

Even members of the community are still part of the problem.

Status as an Ally or a Champion does not absolve us of our prejudices or absolve us of the countless times that we don’t support, advocate or champion particular communities effectively.

It doesn’t absolve us of the ways that we continue to strengthen the system that disadvantages people who aren’t like us, whilst providing and reinforcing the unearned advantage to ourselves and in turn, people that are most like us.

Being an Ally does not absolve us from acting in self-interest, being cowardly or passiveness.

If we don’t continually check ourselves, we can easily fall into offering empty gestures or platitudes or fail to pick up on our potential acts of sabotage.

Instead, I think a better word to use than Ally could be ‘Friend’.

Friends aren’t perfect. Friends can let you down. Friends aren’t always there for you.

But friends do care for you, and friends try their best to give you the support you need, including – at times – self-sacrificial support.

Now, a lot of ‘Allies’ may already appreciate this in their efforts be better allies. But many don’t, and we think that our current actions are sufficient.

It could sound a bit corny, but perhaps we all need to challenge ourselves to be better friends with people who aren’t like us.