Why do we do this? Why are we convinced that a person's actions are an intentional choice on their part to
- make us mad
- hurt our feelings
- make a mistake
- cut us off in traffic
- lie to us
- show up late
- make us late
- spill something
- make a mess
- break something
- budge in line at the grocery store
- lose something important to us
- ________________ fill in the blank
Recently, I have found myself thinking the worst of others' intentions. Not the VERY worst, but certainly thinking that they were intentionally doing things that likely were not intentional. Some of the assumptions I made were pretty funny, like ...
- women wearing super high heels in the airport and walking like their feet hurt ("were you stupid on purpose?")
- people cutting in front of me in the car rental line ("did you think it was okay to make me go last when I was here first?")
- a guy turning in front of me without a turn signal on ("did you want people to pull out and hit you?")
- my grandson breaking my piano lamp ("did you want to knock the lamp down and make me mad?")
Others were not so funny ...
- an unreturned phone call from a son
- someone not saying they were sorry
- asking me if I got the senior citizen's discount (OK - that IS funny)
- a leader saying something rude to an employee
- a person cutting me off mid-sentence - repeatedly
- a client being late for coaching sessions
In each of these situations, I found myself thinking fairly negative things about the other person. In every case, I made up a story that this person had intended to do something hurtful or uncaring. Instead of giving the situation the most respectful interpretation, I gave it the worst. In every case, I found out later, that the person had no intention of having a negative impact on me or the other person. They couldn't see what they were doing, they could only see their intent, which was good. I could only see what they were doing, not their intentions.
Not only did I catch myself doing this lately, but I have witnessed others doing this same thing. Friends, family members, and coaching clients - we have all gotten sucked into taking away the benefit of the doubt. I do not have an answer as to why this is so easy to do. Shouldn't it be just as easy to give someone a break? give the most respectful interpretation? assume good intent?
Please share your thoughts on this over the next few days; I am truly curious to hear what you think! I know it's a choice and I know that many of us make the worst choice too often, The opposite of assuming poor intent would be to give a generous thought - I am going to make every effort to be generous in my thoughts!