What If They Are Doing Their Very Best?

How would that little phrase change your life? The question above is something I stole from Brené Brown. 

Behavior starts as a thought and becomes a feeling that ends in an action. If we want to change behavior, we have to change our thoughts. We organize, analyze, evaluate, and create our thoughts based on assumptions, observations, and experiences. Our thoughts are based on our own knowledge. That means they are not based on truth, they are based on our perspective of the truth. Conclusion:  Our thoughts are often shortsighted and wrong, and our thoughts can be changed by changing our perspective.

In one of my work situations, I have the opportunity to interact with many different personalities. Sometimes that can be challenging. I am informed of what needs to be addressed through work consults that are sent to my pager.  One particular provider often sends random requests that have nothing to do with my professional skill set. For quite a while it left me thinking, “This person doesn’t value what I have to offer. This person hasn’t even learned what I can bring to the table.” I felt disrespected. I felt overlooked. I felt frustrated.

One day however, I chose to look at this situation with a different thought.  What if I made the assumption that this provider wants with all his heart to take care of those he serves? Problems come up that he does not know how to solve. He is looking to me to be the problem solver. My thought changed. My feelings changed. I no longer felt disrespected. I no longer felt overlooked. I was no longer frustrated. I was more available to be helpful.

Then I remembered a little phrase that I had learned from Brené Brown. What if I looked at every interaction with each person with a more open mind, and I asked this question each time? “What if this person is doing the absolute best they can?”  How does this change my perspective? When we assume the best of others, we open the doors to improve community, facilitate communication and  problem solving, and encourage cooperation. We create an emotionally safe environment where people can be happy, vulnerable, and more effective. 

Action step:  By changing how we think, we change how we feel,  we change how we act, and we change how we impact an entire community. Look at the community where you have an impact. Who, In that community deserves a fresh chance at the benefit of a new perspective? What if you assumed they were doing the best they could? How would that make you feel?  How would you feel if someone gave you that same respect?