In these tense and challenging times, the start of a new year may not come with its usual optimism. Assuming good intent — the practice of viewing others as honest, fair, and trustworthy — can help. It helps us let go of hurt feelings, be more forgiving, and see people in the best possible light. Join me in a discussion of the joy and power that come with assuming positive intent.
“Believe in the goodness of all people. Assume positive intent and be quick to forgive.” ~ Diversity expert Mary-Frances Winters
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Author Ian Mclaren
“Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different.” ~ PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi
Find the Power and Joy in Assuming Good Intent
Begin with Curiosity and an Open Mind
Assuming good intent is a multi-faceted approach to communication and relationships. It’s not a Pollyanna approaching every interaction with blind optimism, but the practice of intentionally assuming our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers mean well and are doing their best. It’s entering every interaction with genuine curiosity and an open mind.
Transform Your Relationships and Outlook
Assuming the best of others has the power to transform relationships and improve your outlook on life. Assuming positive intent is about rejecting the belief that everyone has a hidden agenda or is out to get you. It’s about believing that most people are generally benevolent. Rarely does anyone set out to purposefully hurt or harm; most people are just wrestling with their own issues. And it means when you feel criticized or attacked, rather than lashing out or internalizing anger, your response should be to step back to clarify and take in the full picture.
Seek the Good – – and Feel Good!
If you go through life looking for the bad and assuming the worst, you’re likely to find it. The good news is: You have the power to change the way you see and experience the world. Ease your doubt and assume the best and in doing so you’ll form closer bonds with people, become more resilient and increase your sense of gratitude and hopefulness.
I firmly believe when you assume good intent, you’ll find most people rise to your expectations. And when they don’t, you are better positioned to understand and appreciate that they are doing the best they can. Bottom line, life becomes much more gratifying if you look for the good in people and assume good intent.
Tips to Help Assume Good Intent
- Embrace vulnerability. Assuming the best of others can make you feel vulnerable because it necessitates letting down your defenses. But assuming positive intent doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. Stay true to yourself and your values, while committing to believe the best of others.
- Practice open communication. When you find yourself suspicious of someone’s words, actions, or motives, clarify by communicating openly and honestly. Calm, neutral questions can help you understand their motives and reasoning. Start from a place of mental positivity and genuine curiosity. Ask, “Can you help me understand ___?” or “What did you mean by ___?”
- Release defensiveness. Defensiveness creates barriers to positive communication. It reduces your ability to actively listen, which can lead to misinformation or misunderstandings. Recognize your triggers and defensive reactions and resolve to be more open and understanding, creating an atmosphere of respect and trust.
- Extend grace. Sometimes, intentionally or not, others will hurt you. Even then, your response can come from a place of positivity, giving grace to yourself and others. Christian minister Joyce Meyer said, “Hurt people hurt people.” People’s hurtful actions are often about their own pain and struggles. Remember this, and extend grace as much as possible to others.
- Keep a gratitude journal. My favorite positivity practice is an “attitude of gratitude.” Keeping a gratitude journal — focusing on and noting the things you are thankful for each day — changes your worldview by creating a habit of seeing the good in people and in life.
As your coach I am dedicated to helping you create joy and power in both your personal and your professional life. Through my Leap Forward Coaching method I offer you a proven process and life-changing experience to cultivate a healthy and well-rounded life.