Everyone is acting reasonably

People impact us everyday. It is a natural byproduct of living in an interdependent world. Even on days when we hunker down at home and minimize our interactions, we are still impacted by others. What we read, what we watch, what we see on social media, the products created by people that we use all impact us. It is endless.

Our brains cannot register the impact of every interaction. Our brain plays a trick on us to make information processing easier. It tells us a story that the impact someone has had on us is exactly the same as what they intended.

If I am angry because of what you said, you intended to make me angry.

If I am inconvenienced by a decision you made, you intended to inconvenience me.

If I felt rejected by your response to my suggestion, you intended to reject me.

If something is harder than it seems it should be, you are purposefully making it hard.

When we are negatively impacted by others, we convince ourselves that the other person had bad intentions. And it doesn’t stop there. A person with bad intentions quickly becomes a bad person. We jump right over the line that separates who a person is from their behavior. Those are not the same. Every human’s behavior floats below the line of integrity at some point and that does not make us bad. It is a part of our human condition.

Telling ourselves to stop making assumptions is hard. Instead, I challenge clients to shift their assumptions. When you notice yourself assuming negative intent, consider instead assuming positive intent. We shift our focus slightly and begin to look at situations with curiosity rather than blame.

If we want to resolve conflicts and navigate difficult conversations with more ease, we must understand the other’s point of view. We can take the assumption of positive intent further. Consider the possibility that people behave reasonably from their point of view. They review everything that makes up their experience and they make a reasonable choice in behavior. What do they see? Make it your mission to understand their point of view.

Initiate a conversation and name your intention at the start of the conversation. Playback what you hear the other person saying about their point of view to clear confusion and confirm your understanding.