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  • Writer's pictureStephen

Assume Good Intent


I was recently having a chat with a friend of mine who is a psychologist.  He mentioned how in his work with couples and families he often tries to move them to a place in their relationships where they are assuming the others are functioning with good intentions.  To shorten the phrase, he challenges his clients to "assume good intent" in others. Of course, this was about the third conversation in a week in which this idea emerged, so of course it's finding its way here to our weekly message!


I think it's helpful to think about this idea by examining each word individually.


Assume

You've probably heard the phrase, "You know what happens when you assume - you make an ass out of u and me!" While I think that is true in some situations, especially when we are assuming from a negative perspective, in this situation, to assume good intent is about holding a default posture of positivity. It's about being the kind of people who prioritize a framework for life that is generous. To assume good intent means that our starting point is gracious and open.


Good

There are some people I have a hard time believing they are good because their actions give strong indicators in another direction! With those individuals, it would be easy for me to assume they are just bad. However, that assumption has a pretty negative impact on me and my internal spirit and outlook. Instead, I choose (try!) to believe something else, like there is an inherent goodness in them they are just deeply hurt or wounded, or perhaps even sick or imbalanced. And when I can approach people with this framework of good, it makes it easier to recognize that what I need to do is use boundaries well, not just write them off as bad. It's allows me to have a more generous spirit, which is way better for my outlook and perspective.


Intent

When I focus on this final component of intent, it is helpful to think about it from the perspective of motivation and outcome.  For example, a person may have said something to me that had an outcome of actually really hurting me.  If I am going to assume good intent, then I am going to believe they weren't intending to hurt or wound me.  Perhaps they were speaking from a place of their own hurt and their motivation wasn't to wound me but was actually about protecting themselves.  When I use a more generous framework, I am able to separate the outcome from their motivation, and potentially see they aren't as connected together as I may think.


In what ways do you struggle to assume good intent? Are there specific individuals you find this especially challenging, and what would it take for you to shift your perspective to a more generous framework? How could using boundaries well actually help to change your internal spirit toward someone? Where do you need to focus on assuming good intent this week?


Here's to being people who assume good intent!


Be Well,

Stephen


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