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Set an intention - a soundtrack of your bubble-hop

Updated: Feb 14

When you set the intention to understand instead of convince another person, it will change the outcome of the conversation, a meeting, and even a negotiation. An intention is the energy you put into something from the beginning. A goal is a destination, something you want to reach in the future. An intention sets the tone for your journey. Setting your intention is a good way to begin when meeting someone different from you.

Emma Stenström, Associate Professor at Stockholm School of Economics, shares her work in developing the bubble-hopping method. This is a first chapter in a series called “Bubbles”.


From impulsive to mindful

To set an intention might sound “new-agey” to some. But it helps when you try to bridge divides. When you bubble-hop you cannot know the outcome of a meeting beforehand and therefore setting an intention serves you better. It can help to shift from an impulsive reaction to a more mindful one.

When you put an intention behind what you do, you take responsibility for your actions, instead of just habitually performing them. Setting an intention will help you to become more present, and more focused on the other and the meeting between the two of you.

There is research pointing to the usefulness of intentions. Social psychologists like Peter T. Coleman, who founded the “Difficult Conversations Lab” at Columbia University, say that the intention is important if you want to have a balanced and nuanced discussion with someone you don’t agree with. Intentions tell you about the mental state you are in, and want to be in, when you meet your unlike.

If, for example, you aim to convince someone that they are wrong, and you are right, then you are perhaps not in a constructive mood. A better intention for bubble-hopping is to understand and create dialogue, not persuade or convince.

My juggler friends from the circus would say that how you throw the ball will determine if you can catch it. It is not the catching that is most important, it is the throwing. Setting an intention is like throwing the ball. It is the first important step of a bubble-hop.

Here is how you can set your intention

Keep it simple. Think of the intention as something you can bring in the back of your head, and repeat when needed. Like a mantra or a motto or a soundtrack.

An intention for bubble-hopping might be: “I will keep an open mind”. It is one of my own favorites and I have used it many times. I repeat it, over and over again. “I will keep an open mind”. “I will keep an open mind”. It helps me, especially, when I need it the most. When I am about to shut down, or encounter a trigger that I know could shut me down, I repeat quietly to myself: “I will keep an open mind.”

Secondly, chose an intention that you are committed to. Something you want to achieve. Something that is meaningful to you.

Having an open mind is something I strive for. I find myself being prejudiced. I know that I can easily close my mind if I feel provoked. Therefore keeping an open mind is an intention that works for me. It is something that feels meaningful, something I want to become better at. I sometimes set an intention to ask more questions, since I tend to talk too much. But I could never set the intention to share more personal stuff. I already tend to over-share.

For someone else, “I will share my personal story” can work perfectly as an intention. The important thing is to find intentions that are meaningful to you.

I will stay calm

Try to set a positive intention. Instead of stating “I will not be angry” use “I will stay calm”. Intentions phrased as adding something positive are more likely to be successful than intentions about avoiding something negative, according to recent research.

I also suggest that you identify triggers that make you forget your intention. For example, I know that I easily shut down if someone starts lecturing me about things I already know, especially if I have not asked for it. If it happens, I repeat “keep an open mind” to myself.

Some recommend that you also imagine how you would behave if you fulfilled your intention. Imagine that the person you meet does everything to trigger you, how would the best version of you behave? Visualizing the outcomes of your intention increases the likelihood that you will follow through.

Chisel out your intention

Here are some questions you can ask yourself in order to chisel out your intentions. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Read out the questions loud. See what pops up.

What makes me feel alive?

Who do I aspire to become?

What do I want to embody?

How do I want to be remembered?

Who do I need to become to achieve it?

How do I wish to treat others?

How can I positively impact others?

What is my why behind the way I show up?

How do I become the best version of myself?

In which areas do I wish to grow?

Even if these questions do not lead you to a specific intention, they might still be useful to ask yourself. Bubble-hopping starts with you and therefore you need self-awareness.

Test how it works

The skill of setting intentions can also help you in other areas of life. Intentions can be used in many situations. How do you want to show up for your partner? Children? Friends? Colleagues?

Try to set different intentions and see how they change what happens. Set the intention to find as many faults as possible when you go to an event. What do you notice? How do you act?

Next time do the opposite. Try to find as many interesting things as possible. How does that feel? Does it change your actions?

You can use intentions for almost anything. Your relationship, a conference, an education. A family visit, a dinner party. Intentions are exciting to play with.

Setting an intention will determine the outcome of your bubble-hop, but it can also enhance the quality of most relationships and situations in your life.

emma.stenstrom@hhs.se

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