‘Assume good intentions’ – a phrase that I’ve encountered repeatedly recently. I’m not sure that I had heard it much in the past or if I did, perhaps I didn’t pay it enough attention, as it is an unusually helpful one.
We spend so much time surrounded by the effects of the things other people do. We know what they did. We also know how it affected us. What we don’t really know most of the time is their intent, so it becomes a choice for us – What will be assume? The assumption we make (and in my experience, this choice is generally a pattern surfacing in all relationships) is based in our basic beliefs about human nature. I work in a school. Schools are filled with people who have good intentions. I hope that most places are. They are also highly social places – filled with conflict. The things we do affect people – always.
When someone does something that affects us badly – and this happens – what do we focus on? Do we assume that the person had good intentions (i.e. made their decision because they thought, for some reason, that it was good) and try to understand their perspective. Or do we focus on the adverse effect and assume that ‘the effect was the intent’? This won’t help.
Imagine if we could be mindful of this distinction, all day, everyday. Assuming good intentions doesn’t solve the problem, but it does give us a starting place for a resolution. All we need is a starting place.
(For a friend in Beijing.)