There is great wisdom in positive assumption
A wise leader I worked with once stated something along the lines “Always assume positive intent, unless proven otherwise”. This statement rang true with me, and it is such a powerful ideal to leverage for your success in your business and personal life. It is an ideal which forces you to take a step back, fully assess the situation, and come to a logical, and often positive conclusion. Some have told me that this is a naive way to view the world, but in reality, it is a tool to leverage which allows you to be unbiased, avoid unnecessary emotional stress, and create some very productive outcomes.
What’s the value in assuming the positive?
By utilizing this positive mentality as often as possible, you will witness great benefits professionally and at home. Most notably, you will find that you are more easily creating and maintaining genuine relationships with others. By assuming positive intent and being brave in your communication, you break down walls and have an opportunity to reveal that you have good interests at heart. You may find others had the wrong assumption about you, giving you a wonderful opportunity to connect in a genuine way. Be honest, and don’t be afraid to be somewhat vulnerable in your conversation. The genuine relationships you maintain promote productive business results, environments of trust, and the most rewarding personal experiences. You may be surprised in the quality of the relationships you establish, even with those you once thought of as an enemy.
What does it mean to assume positive intent?
Most of us are not mind readers. In our daily lives, we will consistently run in to situations where our initial emotional reaction is to assume something negative. Perhaps a co-worker, or superior, often does not respond to your well thought out email. Maybe a client did not follow through on a meeting you set up, or did not pay an agreed upon fee. A co-worker may often appear cold, or even rude, in their responses to you via email or IM. It may appear that another department in your business is trying to take advantage of you, by requesting work you feel they can do themselves. These are all common and relatively harmless situations where utilizing the power of visualizing positive intent can be very beneficial.
Take a moment, and think about the situation you are in, and try to empathize with the other party. Are people purposefully disregarding your email? Or is it more likely they are simply overwhelmed with emails, and missed yours? How often have we missed an email, and were in that same boat? Is your client truly trying to short you on a bill, or is it possible they simply paid the wrong amount? Is that other department really trying to take advantage of you with unnecessary work? Or do they simple have an opportunity to learn how to do the task themselves? Are your co-workers intentionally being rude? Or are they simply under pressure, and are not taking the time to convey typical pleasantries, without realizing how their message is being perceived?
The key is to realize that although sometimes your initial negative thought is accurate, more often than not, people are not trying to be offensive. In cases where your initial instinct is accurate, only act on that conclusion after appropriate assessment, and handle accordingly. Avoid making decisions based on your initial emotional state, it will rarely work out in your favor.
A polite, well thought response is often the best course of action
Communication is key. Regardless of the situation, or the reality of the other party’s intent, effective communication will pave the path to a successful resolution. Come from a kind place, and utilize the positive assumption in your communication. More often than not, you will find that you will get a positive result. Don’t be afraid to politely explain the perception that was created by the situation, especially to co-workers or your superiors. They often will appreciate the feedback, and may implement a change which keeps it from happening in the future. In cases where others are asking you to do work they can do themselves, it is always a great tactic to offer to train them on tools they may not be aware of, empowering them to do a better job, as opposed to just performing the task yourself. If it is revealed that they are aware of how to do the task themselves, it becomes obvious that offloading that work to you may not be appropriate, and it is OK to raise that point to them. You have the power to politely stand up for yourself while also potentially increasing the productivity and quality of your business.
It’s not always going to be an easy conversation
Taking time to think about the situation allows you to get a clearer picture of what is going on. Sometimes this reveals a negative assumption as reality. This is a good thing. You get to arm yourself with FACTS instead of subjective emotion or speculation. There are times when you need to show your teeth! Remain professional, remain polite, and be brave. Utilize the facts you acquired, and make the best of the situation. Call it as you see it, involve any other parties that may be appropriate, and take action to make a change. You may need to get lawyers involved to address a contract breach, or you may have to set up a meeting with senior leadership to force a change in behavior with coworkers. Sometimes you will determine the actual risk of the situation is very low, and the resolution can be as simple as having a friendly conversation, stating what you know, and letting the situation slide with the intention of maintaining a relationship with required changes to right the wrong in the future. No matter the situation, come at it with the intention of doing the best thing for yourself and the business, utilize facts, and don’t back down from doing the right thing. Communication being the key here, you may find there is a good reason for the situation, and it is important to be open to changing something on your end as a result.
Don’t fret the small stuff
Assuming the best intentions has an obvious result on business productivity through enhanced communication, but it also is great for your own emotional wellbeing. When we allow ourselves to be wrapped up in the emotion of a negative assumption, it causes unnecessary stress, often without much factual basis. Cut it out! There are more important things to worry about. Assuming the positive allows you to cut that unnecessary stress from your life, allowing you to stay clear-headed in situations where many others would stumble, and allowing you to more easily see any factual evidence of wrongdoing. In cases where there is a legitimate cause for concern, you will find that your stress is diminished, and will have confidence in actual facts you accumulated to build your case and make the best possible outcome. Continue on with your good day, you deserve it, and you will notice that same positive mentality spread to others in your environment.
Every time you assume positive intent, you have the potential of creating unique and meaningful experiences that better your life, and all the lives you touch. How great would it be to live in a world where everyone assumed the positive?