Has anyone ever suggested you should assume best intent before reacting to others?
Scenarios play out in your work environment leading you to ask yourself, “Did that really just happen?” “Who were they talking to … because clearly, it was not me. I mean, how could they treat me like that?”
When responding to circumstances, such as these, your recommended first step is to pause. Then, breathe … and finally, reflect. It is important to keep an open mind and refrain from jumping to unnecessary conclusions. So, when in doubt about the others around you, assume best intent.
Why Intent is Important to Consider
Although intent has multiple meanings, the definition focus for this mindset is, “the state of mind with which an act is done.” This has been a popular discussion topic in recent years with a general consensus. When assuming best intentions, it has the potential of greatly benefiting your own mental health. It may also benefit your organization — whether you are an employee or you are an entrepreneur.
According to Bruce Eckfeldt in his post, “The Hidden Power of Assuming Positive Intent,” it’s important to identify the advantages to (what could be considered) a negative situation. Instead of obsessing over the incident or plotting retaliation, focus on the opportunities.
In his Forbes’ post, Eckfeldt says, “Successful leaders always assess the angles.” It’s important to go beyond hurt feelings and emotions; open your thought-process to envision how the bigger picture could play out. By approaching a matter with a plan and professionalism, the outcome could pleasantly surprise you.
Never Allow Anyone to Steal Your Peace
Perhaps the situations you have faced in the workplace haven’t been as intense nor would warrant as much planning and/or reflection. My recommendation is to apply the mindset and assume best intent whenever applicable.
Now, this does not translate to allowing others to treat you in a disrespectful manner or to harass you — anywhere. Assuming best intent is about pausing and considering your options before reacting to an incident.
Over a decade ago, I was in corporate leadership — blessed to learn from some of the best leaders. One of my most influential and empowering operations managers helped change my thought process in the workplace. She even evolved my outlook on life overall.
Regardless of the situation, my leader would remind me to assume best intent and to never allow anyone to steal my peace. Her wisdom included — that although awareness of others’ intentions is wise –– avoid being defensive while keeping a positive perspective. Her words resonated with me, as I made the choice to follow her infinite wisdom from that point forward.
Now, as you read this you may be thinking, “This seems practical in theory, however, the reality could prove more challenging when in the moment — especially in the workplace.” Here are 3 tips to support your growth in perspective:
3 Tips to a Healthier Mindset
1. We All Carry Baggage
Although we may have the best intentions, as we plan to leave our personal issues outside of the workplace, this may be next to impossible to accomplish at times. When someone says something crass or their body language seems aloof, do not assume you are the cause.
If there is an issue with you, it is their responsibility to bring it to your attention. Remember, their behavior is not about you until they choose to share with you while approaching you with respect and professionalism.
2. Most People are Good
No matter how discouraged I may feel after a negative situation, I remind myself that most people on our planet are good. This said, I refuse to allow a few bad apples to ruin my optimistic outlook on life.
No one can ‘rent space’ in your mind without permission, so as long as it is not harmful to your well-being, let’s not dwell on what cannot be controlled.
3. Be a Light in the Darkness
Positivity is contagious, and if you make it a point to find the silver lining and grow from it, you may be pleasantly surprised at how others react to you. I have shared the “assume best intent” mindset with many colleagues and friends over the years. Their response has been positive and appreciative, just as my own response was so many years ago.
So, the next time someone gives you — what you consider to be — an odd facial expression. Or if they say something seemingly out of character. Or perhaps, a decision is made that has you baffled beyond belief. Assume best intent prior to reacting to the situation.