Monday, December 20, 2010
Posted by Bobby Beck at 4:09 PM
Always assume positive intent

As the year ramps down I've been reflecting on what an incredible year it's been. I've learned more this year about myself, life, leadership, being a husband and the importance of listening that I feel like a new me.

I had to opportunity to learn about a powerful concept that is still seeping into my inner being that is a little nugget to pass on for those in the pursuit of a more fulfilled life. Here we go...

I posted before about the impact True Colors has had on my life. This set of knowledge has truly been one of the most powerful pieces for me in many years. It serves as the foundation for how to better understand people and understand and enjoy the differences that exist.

In addition to True Colors, I was introduced to a concept that has strengthed my communication with people and this concept is profound in its simplicity. This concept is:

Always assume positive intent.

Simply put, it means to take down your defenses and listen clearly before you react to people. Living in the present moment and not inside of your head.

A few examples are say, when someone says something that I could view as offensive (this could vary based on your personal "offended" meter) that I don't read a story into what they've said; that I not read anything into the expression or tone they may be relating. I first begin to notice my body starting to feel a small boil beginning. At this moment I stop focusing on what is in my head (all sorts of stories going on) and I simply listen. I listen to the words that they are saying. What are they really asking for? Do I need to be getting offended (no)? Do I need to retort to sound smart or defend my position (I could, it feels good, right? - but is it getting me closer to understanding the situation or connecting better with them? Most of the time, no).

99% of the time I've been finding that when I stay present and really listen that if I were to react on my "story" I could have halted or damaged communication. This one concept of "always assume positive intent" has made me rethink the way I think about conflict. Be in conflict in someone cutting me off in the car (maybe they are racing to get somewhere important?), conflict in the workplace (in a meeting someone says something that makes me feel like I did something wrong for doing a task that I missed a step or two on) or, most importantly, conflict in your relationships.

Something that has really helped me strengthen this concept is around some coaching I've been getting over the last 6 months in Crucial Conversations. Crucial Conversations is an amazing resource for dealing with conflict and tough conversations. They happen, or, may not happen, more often than I once had thought. The crucial conversations material is deep and is the perfect compliment with True Colors.

Crucial Conversations has helped me further my understanding of "always assume positive intent" in a huge way. I've learned that it is my responsibility to not take the "suckers choice" and get defensive or react inappropriately. It is my responsibility to restore safety when it is lost in a conversation and this, in time, shows people by example how to communicate more effectively. This requires a lot of self discipline and it works. Once you do it once it becomes addicting! It's been working in all areas of my life.

What I've learned is still taking shape and will continue to do so. My life has become more pleasurable, more fun and my friendships are more outstanding as a result of it. It's a concept that I encourage you to play with. I'd love to hear your thoughts and results in trying it out. Enjoy and have an incredible holiday!