You get to work and read an email from a coworker:

Christi – the side door was left unlocked between 2 and 3 pm again. Have you thought of creating a checklist that will help you remember?


You think:

  • What a jerk
  • Thanks for the helpful suggestion. I’ll try it!
  • She seems to have good ideas, so maybe she can help me figure out what to do

Your answer to this question says a lot about what you believe to be true about people. If you sometimes think the worst of people, you can change and more often give people the benefit of the doubt. Try these tips:

Slow things down. A frenetic pace can promote reactivity and impatience. Take a moment to stop, think and choose your behavior.

Train yourself to think from others’ point of view. Remember that people bring a diversity of culture, learning and experience to every life situation. Practice thinking, “I wonder why she feels that way” and respond based upon genuine curiosity.Learn why they take the actions they take. Ask about what you don’t understand.

Give yourself cues. Display a picture or quote that reminds you of people’s positive qualities. Light a scented candle or play relaxing music to set a laid-back tone.

Treat yourself with respect. People who are critical of others are often their own worst critic. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and it will be easier to lighten up with others as well.

Remember that giving others a break is really doing you a favor. When you assume the best, you experience less stress. It doesn’t mean you won’t confront truly inappropriate behavior. You just don’t assume that every possible slight is real or intentional. By choosing your battles, you have more productive energy for addressing the issues that matter most.

People are fallible and everyone makes mistakes. You might assume that some of these mistakes are directed at you. In reality, most often, the behavior is a result of ignorance or a different frame of reference. Or, said less kindly in the phrase known as Hanlon’s Razor, “Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”



Need to make a commitment to assume positive intent? Contact Humanergy.

Photo from istockphoto.