Assume Good Intent

29 May

What would happen if you were to assume good intent as your first plan of action – in all situations?

You might be thinking, “What are you talking about?”  OK, it’s like this. People typically act out of good intentions, even if the behavior seems destructive, unhelpful or inconsiderate.  This might seem like an oxymoron, bad behavior = good intent?

We all have the same basic needs to feel:

  • Safe, emotionally and physically
  • That we belong, we are included
  • We have influence or some degree of control in our situation
  • We have a purpose, our life matters
  • Things in our world are relatively fair

We all do things with the good intention of fulfilling these driving needs –this is often at an unconscious level.  If a person doesn’t feel competent (safe), or included or respected, they will act out with the good intent of protecting themselves.

Quite frankly, other people do not wake up in the morning trying to figure out how to make your life miserable (although it feels that way some days!)  They wake up trying to figure out how to feel that they are doing a good job, they are contributing, they are important and valued and respected.  You might actually believe your kids, family members or co-workers sit up at night plotting against you and conceiving ideas to make you insane, but I’m guessing they’re really loosing sleep trying to figure out how to feel that they belong in a meaningful way, that they matter to someone or have some control over their lives.

I’m not suggesting that assuming good intention means you allow people to treat you badly or that you make outrageously bad decisions. I AM suggesting that it’s worth a few moments of your time to stop and ask yourself, “I wonder what good intention could be behind this crazy behavior?  I wonder if this person is acting out because they feel at risk?”

Here is a choice you can make this week, notice people and situations that you find confusing, frustrating or downright belligerent.  Choose to put on your curious learner cap and assume they do have good intentions, try to imagine what their good intent might be or what risk they might be experiencing that is causing them to act out.  Can you find a little empathy to craft a new path with them?

Good Luck!  This is definitely a healthier plan that letting anger and frustration flood you with stress!


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