In our schools, the number of decision that have to be made and questions answered on a daily basis is unbelievable. I have always considered trying to count the number of questions I am asked, or the number of decisions that are made in a given day, but there just does not seem like there would be time in the day to accurately keep the data and still do my daily work. I often run into difficult situations or frustrated people, where one side (or both sides) fail to see the other person’s point of view. One of these specific situations came up with me this week and I will not lie…I was frustrated. During my bout of frustration, I had to remind myself of a rule I have tried to follow for the past few years. It is not a complicated rule, but it is a difficult one for me to hold myself to on a regular basis. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to introduce this simple concept to you that I feel has greatly helped me view people and situations through an entirely different, more positive, lens. Here is the revolutionary concept… assume the best intentions.
I work hard and try to live under the umbrella of doing my best every day, while giving people the benefit of the doubt, and assuming only the best intentions.
Maybe like some of you, I learned a different saying about what happens when you “assume.” Therefore, I try not to make assumptions about people. I believe that often problems arise when we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. We justify our actions, especially when we make mistakes, by our intentions going into it. We process poor outcomes by saying “I meant well,” “I wasn’t trying to offend them,” or “That was not how I wanted this to turn out.” Then we move on, or blame others, because we knew our intentions were good, regardless of the what ended up happening. On the flip side, we tend to judge others only by the outcome. “Why were they trying to be so mean?” “If that is how they are handling this, they must not care.”
This idea has greatly improved my approach, both mentally and emotionally, when I encounter challenging interactions and situations. When I get into one of these situations with another person, I no longer immediately jump to the conclusion that the other person has it in for me or is trying to make my life difficult. I do my best to take a deep breath and attempt to understand the other person’s perspective. I use a little empathy. I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have the best intentions. In most cases, they actually are coming from a place of good intentions and, surprisingly, are not trying to make my life more difficult. I know, it might be hard to believe but rarely are other people trying to ruin your day by the decisions they make or have previously made. Believe me, every person you come into contact with on a daily basis is not thinking, How will this choice impact (insert your name here)?
Keep in mind that in most cases the person that you are dealing with is trying to do what they believe is best given the knowledge that they have on the issue in question. The problem is, in most of those cases, that person’s knowledge is either limited or different than your own. That does not make them bad or wrong. However, it does require you to be a bit more patient and understanding. The only person you can control in any situation is yourself. And, it is often your reaction that impacts the true outcome of a problem. You, in whatever role you fill in life, must be willing to accept that patience and understanding is a vital part of successfully working with others. When you give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume they have the best intentions, you will be able to move and grow with people rather than trying to improve despite them.
Give it a shot…for the rest of the week, the month, the school year…assume the best intentions of others in every situation. If you do this, and do it from your heart, not just with your actions, you will be amazed at how it changes your perspective about people and situations in your life.
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!