Seeing Other People as Doing Their Best

A friend of mine recently shared an article by writer and speaker Brene Brown. It was a little piece of wisdom that I have been trying to practice the last couple of weeks, and I think it is revolutionary. The idea is that we should see other people as “doing the best they can.”

Dr. Brown calls it the “assumption of positive intent.” Our natural instincts have been trained to think of people in a negative light. Imagine that someone cancels a meeting with you. It is natural to believe they have wasted your time and don’t care about your schedule. Possibly a co-worker doesn’t finish a task, and you are left to clean up the mess. Naturally, it feels like your co-worker has taken you for granted and thinks their time is more valuable than yours.

Repeatedly, we jump to negative assumptions about other people’s actions. How would your life change if you began to assume the best in people? Now imagine that person who let you down, frustrated, or disappointed you. What if their excuse was valid? What if they legitimately did the best they could? Then, most likely, we come off as a jerk. We need to stop harassing them and making their life more difficult. Sure, there may be issues that need to be addressed, but those are often problems with procedure rather than lousy personal behavior.

The apostle Paul tells the believers in the city of Ephesus, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 – NIV 2011) Our words are not to be used destructively, instead, in a constructive way that builds others up. How better to do that than to see their actions as “doing the best they can?”

One of my goals for this year is to be more positive. It is a challenge to think of the glass as half full. But when people are involved, it is even more difficult to be positive. Dealing with people is a risky business, they can fail you, but your attitude toward them can always remain positive and our words helpful, if we see them as doing their best.

And if you do not agree with this post, that is okay. I did the best I could.

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