Assume People Are Good – For Your Sake, Not Theirs
Before we even get into this, let’s do a thought experiment.
Let’s pretend people are bad. They’re ignorant. They’re willfully nasty. They want to hurt you.
So, say someone cuts you off in traffic. Why is that?
- Because they’re selfish?
- They don’t care if they kill you?
- They’re rude?
- They’re bad drivers?
the list goes on.
Now, how does that make you feel, experiencing that?
- All of the above?
The truth is though – you have no proof of any of the above. It’s all assumption.
And those assumptions have left you feeling crappy.
Let’s look at this another way.
Say you’ve just cut someone off, why did that happen?
- You forgot to check your blind spot because you were distracted by work or the kids?
- You were feeling crappy and not paying attention?
- You were tired?
- You just made an honest mistake?
Notice how often we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt while assuming the worst in others.
Of course, driving is only one example. We do this everywhere.
Does our boyfriend actually hate us? Probably not. So why interpet what he says as if he does?
It doesn’t help our relationship, and it makes us feel shitty.
Are our workmates really conspiring against us? It’s highly unlikely.
But when we’re suspicious we become moody, which makes people less likely to want to connect with us. Which may make them look like they’re conspiring, when really they’re just avoiding our crap. Hello! Self fulfilling prophecy!
Really, we go around all day every day making assumptions about the behaviour of the people around us. Interpreting what we see to fill in gaps in our understanding of the world.
So, if we’re going to make assumptions, why not make them in our favour?
If instead of assuming people are bad (lazy, assholes, etc) we just assumed they were good, how would that work?
- If we see them doing something wrong, we’ll assume they made a mistake
- If they say something that could be interpreted as nasty, we’ll assume they just didn’t phrase it well
- If something they say could be taken two ways, we’ll decide they meant the good way
- If we see them not doing something, we won’t decide they’re lazy: just busy, or distracted, or forgetful
All these things are more compassionate (which is always good), but here’s a more immediate benefit:
They all make us feel better.
And the bottom line is, who cares why they did something? Is that really any of our business? If we must know, we can always ask them. Radical, I know.
In the meantime, we’ll just see the world as filled with fallible but well meaning humans.
Much like ourselves.
And all that anger and vitriol we generate when people don’t behave or talk the way we want them to will dissipate with it. After all, we’re not the boss of their lives; they are.
It’s not our job to control or change the people around us, and the sooner we let go of thinking we need to, the happier we’ll be.
We can start by adjusting one basic assumption and get more peaceful right away.