People will do what seems like crazy and unexpected things. People say things like, “My boss should know better to schedule me when I can’t work”, or “My friend should know better to say that to me”, or “The sales person should know better to charge me wrong.”
It’s difficult to always say, decide, or do the right thing. Expect that people will disappoint you. Not because anyone is intentionally trying to mess up your life, but because no one or nothing is perfect. By default most people are trying to get along, want to help, and are trying to make good decisions. To make your life and the lives of the people you interact with better, assume honorable intentions.
“Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him.” – Cardinal Richelieu
This quote illustrates how just about anything can be misconstrued and received in ways that are not intended.
When your boss schedules you to work on a day you have already asked to be off, assume that the job of scheduling is complex. There are probably a lot of difficult factors that make it challenging to remember everyone’s schedule requests. A simple reminder and an offer to help is a service you can give to your supervisor to clear up the schedule. Being sincere with your offer to help is what will differentiate you from someone who either stews about the mistake or complains.
When your friend says something that offends you, assume that they did not think about how what they said would be received. There are all sorts of reasons people say hurtful things. They may be trying to impress other people through their words or thinking of themselves without thinking of how it affects someone like you. Assume what they said was unintentional. This puts you in a position to help them by saying something like, “I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way. What you said sounded like ______.” Other people will get mad, gossip about what was said, or treat their friend differently without understanding what might be a misunderstanding. You can be different with your approach to try to help them.
When a sales person charges you too much or too little, assume there was a something else that caused the error. The pricing ticket could have been wrong, the item you bought could have been in the wrong place on the shelf and therefore mislabeled, the cash register computer could have been programmed wrong, or it could be a simple oversight by the sales person. Assume the mistake was unintentional and that the sales person was unaware. From this assumption you can simply point out that you thought the item was a different price. Ask if the sales person could check to see if there was a mistake. Coming from the place of trying to fix an error allows the sales person to want to help you as well. I know they are supposed to want to help you, but as humans when we feel attacked we want to attack back. Avoid this by helping.
Assuming honorable intentions is a service you can give to the people in your life. Providing helpful feedback is a non-threatening way of resolving issues that could otherwise go down an unproductive road. Our lives are so busy and distracting that it is no wonder unintentional problems occur. Recognizing it and assuming the best is what helps us stay productive.
How have you helped a situation by assuming honorable intentions?