positive intent

The idea of assuming positive intent came up in a staff meeting yesterday. It’s used as guiding principle at work, but ironically holds just as much relevancy in my personal life.

What does it mean? Basically – by assuming positive intent, you should naturally begin to see the actions of others with an optimistic spin, regardless of how you’re affected. It’s a minor change that can affect your entire outlook. And it saves you from a lot of eye rolling/desk pounding/profanity. Note the use of the word ‘should’ above. This isn’t an on/off switch. No magical Kool-Aid that you can chug. It’s just a gradual shift in focus.

I can only speak for myself. But I get frustrated or annoyed on a pretty regular basis. Getting cut off in traffic, receiving a terse e-mail, impatiently waiting while the person in front of me at the grocery store writes a check (seriously – who uses checks?).

These are all things that can become incredibly frustrating.

But what if you don’t let them. And instead give each of these instances the benefit of the doubt, by assuming positive intent.

Chances are the people involved in situations that frustrate you aren’t doing so intentionally. There’s often a multitude of underlying reasons that contribute to their actions, very few that relate to you. The person who cut you off may be rushing to pick up a child from daycare. The person writing a check may be budgeting to avoid debt. Even if they do happen to do have negative intentions, you’re never going to know, so it’s pretty pointless to get mad about it.

No soapbox here. Just hoping that prioritizing this mindset will help keep me sane while work, grad school and wedding planning suck away my surplus patience.

[Sidenote: Jim, who is far more patient and forgiving than I am, has gotten the brunt of the meltdowns lately. Sorry babe. Love you.]

5 thoughts on “positive intent

  1. Gee, I didn’t know that writing checks annoyed people. I think I’ll take up the practice and give others the opportunity to practice positive intent.

  2. I am a big believer in “positive intent”–. It is a great way to
    TRY and live your life…. It has to be healthier for us too. Thanks Jess
    for the reminder.

  3. …it’s a very Buddhist way to approach life! …it’s true…you never know what the other guy’s circumstances are. When someone upsets or angers me I think “I wish you happiness and the causes of happiness” (A Buddhist practice for loving kindness) and my pissed-offness dissapates. It really is much easier to use your energy in a positive way than a negative way. Thanks for such a great blog posting! XXOO

  4. Peter Bregman called, he wants his mentality back 😉

    Kidding aside, good post. Even though I’m not in a city where I drive, when I was, I got in the habit of pretending that every person that cut me off on the freeway was racing to the hospital to see a dying relative. Morbid? Slightly. Effective. Most definitely.

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