Assume Positive Intent | Fundamental #24
|“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” –Mahatma Gandhi|
|I think what Gandhi was saying here is to not let someone else’s behavior command your thoughts.|
It’s a great reminder to not give my power away to others.
However, our thoughts are shaped by our own perceptions and perhaps we give in too quickly to negative interpretations.
We all have opinions, desires, and ideas. We will unconsciously look for similar beliefs and common preferences in every conversation and interaction we have with others.
If we don’t have that alignment, it’s automatic to form some judgment about what the person is saying.
Think about a person in your mind that tends to create upset, frustration, disappointment, or annoyance for you.
Do you have some story about that person? Do you ever think “They are out to get me” or “They want to make my life difficult” or “Why don’t they just do it my way”?
These are all assumptions.
I won’t argue that in some cases this may be true. However, if we are willing to be curious about their intentions, I have found that I’m mostly wrong about their intent.
We create bigger problems when we choose to form an opinion that may be inaccurate.
I wonder how much time and money we lose because we are so quick to judge? It’s a very costly game.
Why is it so hard to assume positive intent in others?
Scientifically, it’s our brain wiring. We are designed to identify danger or suffering and “fight or flight”.
We are equipped to be ready for unwanted outcomes and respond quickly. Unfortunately, we overcompensate and miss opportunities to reframe or understand what is actually happening.
In Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism, he argues that our ability to interpret life from an optimistic point of view versus a pessimistic point of view comes solely from how we learned to explain situations.
This is really great news!
It’s a learned behavior, which means if it’s not a favorable explanation, we can relearn how to create explanations that change our point of view.
If we are not getting the outcome we want with people, we can look first at what our explanations are about the situation.
If we are aware of our explanations, then we can take the next step. We can either get more clarity from the person involved or we can choose to modify our explanation to provide us with a more positive outcome.
This is more than just positive thinking.
This is the ability to challenge your automatic thoughts. Pay attention to your interpretations and be an advocate for listening for the positive intention that drives people’s behavior.
This is so much better than assuming the worst!
It takes a lot of practice to be accountable for our thoughts. I have found that when I’m vigilant in my awareness, I accomplish so much more.
While you’re paying attention to focusing on positive intent in others, don’t forget to be more clear in your intentions.
People will automatically create their own explanations of you.
Don’t give them the space to misinterpret your positive intentions. Let them know! Say it loud and say it proud!
“I’ve noticed two things about men who get big salaries. They are almost invariably men who, in conversation or in conference, are adaptable. They quickly get the other fellow’s view. They are more eager to do this than to express their own ideas. Also, they state their own point of view convincingly.”
With the best intentions,Martha Lynn
Fundamental of the Week #24: ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT
Work from the assumption that people are good, fair, and honest. Set aside your own judgments or preconceived notions, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Look for the positive intent in their actions and communications.