The Immediacy Rule


The Immediacy Rule is a communication rule I use when training people who work with others for a large part of their time. The rule is:

Other people don't care about your intentions.

Living day-to-day life, the interpersonal rule of thumb is that we simply interact and then react, caring only about communication results we get from another: what we feel or understand.


To care about other people's intentions is a luxury that is afforded only when taking the time to have a longer conversation about communication with someone else, usually stemming from a misunderstanding or argument we had with them. Too often, "You misread my intention," is something people use as a defense about why their communication created a problem.

This is not to say that intention is unimportant. I believe intention is the primary driver of the emotional response we get from others. Yet as a rule, people do not consider your intention when they are experiencing how clear or impactive you are. They are just reacting to your verbal, vocal, and visual choices.

On a note regarding the receivers of communication, there are x-factors. Sometimes we develop what are called "filters" in our mindset that cause us to more easily and/or severely misread another person's intentions. For example, as we listen to a colleague who has broken our trust in the past, our reticular activating system actively - yet unconsciously - seeks phrases that could be lies, and our confirmation bias hijacks our decision making to decide that they are lies.

Thinking and learning about communication skills assists growth in becoming more conscious in clarity of intention, and also to listen with more openness to others intentions, too.