Friday, October 9, 2009

Assume Good Intentions

When I teach or facilitate an adult class or conversation, I like to set a guideline of "assume good intentions". In other words, even if another participant says something that sounds mean or rude or biased, assume that they didn't mean it that way - assume that they are well-meaning underneath their gaffes or quirks.

This is a grown-up version of a saying I used to quote: "Never assume malice when stupidity could explain it". That saying was very helpful to me when I was younger, especially as a driver. If someone tailgates you or cuts you off on the road, they probably weren't "out to get you" - but you can go ahead and roll your eyes and think "idiot".

Now, I try to not think of people as "idiots" anymore, while still assuming they hold no malice. Even if this is not always true, even if I am sometimes "turning the other cheek" to a person who really was acting without good-intentions, I still choose to live as though my fellow humans are innately good people.

Yesterday my nanny recounted an interaction between my children. They were both playing, when Hypatia said she needed to go to the bathroom. Carbon, as soon as he heard that, shouted "I need to go pee too!" and sprinted to get to the bathroom before she could. The nanny was unhappy with him for doing that, and she was telling him through the door that that was a mean thing to do, and then she told Hypatia that she was sorry her brother had done that. Hypatia answered "he must have really had to pee to make him do that".

My nanny was surprised at that attitude from a three year old, but I recognize it as my "assume good intentions" philosophy. (Of course, Carbon's "me first" attitude is another issue altogether).

How we live is how they learn.

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