Assume people are trying to do the right thing

June 02, 2023
by Ivan Raconteur

I’ve had the luxury lately to do a lot of thinking. This doesn’t mean I didn’t think when I was working a bajillion hours per week, but that thinking tended to be action-focused, prioritizing the next project and planning the week ahead. Lately, I have taken more time to analyze some of my opinions and attitudes.

One area with which I struggled in the past involved motivation and intention. If someone did something that inconvenienced me or otherwise caused me problems, I sometimes assumed that they intended to make my life miserable or that they simply didn’t care. This left me with an unpleasant negative impression.

Since I have been trying to eliminate negativity from my life wherever possible, I have examined these situations to see how I can make them better. I decided the best thing I could do would be to change my perception.

Instead of assuming that the people are evil or apathetic, I now assume that they were trying to do the right thing or provide good service and just fell short of their goal. This may or may not be true, but what I discovered is changing my perception immediately changed the way I felt about the situation.

By giving people the benefit of the doubt, I feel better about them and about the transaction. Instead of carrying around a bunch of negative baggage, I’m left with a positive impression that people are at least trying to be helpful, even if they don’t succeed.

This is not such a stretch after all. I think most people genuinely try to do the right thing whenever they can. Some people try harder than others, and some have greater abilities than others, but they are at least making an effort.

Even if that’s not the case, I don’t see the harm in erring on the side of believing in good intentions until we are presented with evidence to the contrary. Who knows? It’s just possible that assuming the best in people might encourage them to try a little harder.

Also, if we treat people with respect and show them appreciation for what they do, it makes them feel better about themselves and encourages them to take pride in what they do.

 If we can accomplish this, it is a win for everyone.

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