I believe that people generally come from a place of positive intention. If there is a disconnect, it often happens in their impact and the stories that get made up about their intentions. The impact of this? Resistance, mistrust, broken relationships, unintended influence, and at a minimum, lost opportunities for creativity, collaboration, and doing their best work.
Assuming "bad" creates a negative and constrictive energy - no good. Assuming good creates expansive, safe and creative energy - very good. An easy and obvious choice, yet intention and choice are easier said than action and consistency. Why?
Three common reasons: 1) lack of awareness - they don't even realize they're doing it, 2) habit - defaults can be tricky to shake, 3) busy-ness - for whatever reason, it seems easier and quicker to go to the dark side. (This of course is a lie - assuming good takes a lot less energy and has greater returns.)
Of course if there was a #4 reason, it might be that there are some who get a lot of mileage out of assuming bad (yes, they do exist), but in my experience, that's not the majority. (And I'm assuming that the people reading this want to assume good and lead well.)
It's easy to default to "defense mode" and to assume "bad" or to just not be aware of intention at all. Assuming good, or even being aware of someone's true intention, takes awareness and curiosity to do this - and this is where we'll often fail to "get it right." When you move fast, when you have 4,368 things to do (by 6 tonight), and when you have so many competing priorities; awareness, curiosity, and "assuming good" are easily put on the back burner. The solution to this? Awareness, intention, commitment, and active engagement with assuming good: 70% of it is awareness, the other 30% is what you do with it.
So how do you do it?
If you want to build better relationships, better organizations, better results, and even inner peace - you have to assume good.
Are there people out there who have hidden agendas and misguided intentions? Sure. But more often than not, those "hidden agendas" and "misguided" intentions are "made up", misinterpreted, created out of fear and misguided assumptions. When one assumes good about the other (even if it may not be 100% accurate), a whole new kind of space opens up, a new level of conversation and connection, a very different kind of energy, and a completely different outcome. Assuming good helps things go "right" - even for that 1% of the time when assuming bad may actually be the best thing to do.
I was taught years ago that "intuition is always right, it's the interpretation that is often wrong." So listen to your intuition, and check it out. If your intuition guides you to assume bad, dig deeper, do your due diligence, and check it out. Something is likely off - but it may not be what you think.
Need help assuming good? Here are a couple of places to help you get there:
1) What is the positive intention behind this person's behavior?
2) What is this person defending or resisting?
3) What are you defending or resisting?
4) What do you appreciate about this person?
5) What is it like to be this person? (Get over "on their side", stand in their "shoes"...what do you see?)
If after reflecting on these, you still don't feel good about it, name it, honor it, have an honest discussion with the object of your assumptions - you may be surprised. And if it's still no good, and due diligence proves that having your hackles up is truly important, you have a whole new set of actions and conversation to have.
Of course, I'm assuming that something in this post will serve you - but please, back me up! Let me know what resonates, how you'll use it, how you're doing.
Here's to appreciating our assumptions - they are some of our biggest teachers.