Assume the Best About Others

assume the best

Today’s quick hit is to assume the best of someone you don’t know. You may not think that you’re making negative assumptions about other people. After all, most of us know that  to assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me. But, trust me, your brain is filling in a lot of blanks about the people you encounter every day, and probably in a fairly ungenerous and judgmental way. Because, left to its own devices, your brain will take shortcuts and jump to conclusions. 

Maybe you decide that the driver in front of you is an idiot, or that your spouse’s silence means they’re mad. And because this process is subconscious, it makes it very likely that we will mistake these opinions for fact when other, more loving explanations exist—if you allow yourself to look for them.

You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.

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How else might you interpret the people and situations you make snap judgments about?

I’ve got three specific positive assumptions you could make about someone you encounter out in the world today

  • They’re doing their best. Maybe the person who is driving erratically might be facing something really challenging. Like, maybe they are on their way to visit a relative in the hospital. 
  • They’re coming from a positive place. Maybe the person at the PTO meeting who just keeps talking is really just trying to advocate for their kid. 
  • They’re actually not thinking about you at all. Maybe your spouse is just thinking about something that happened at work. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to choose just one person or situation today to look at through a more positive lens. Remember, you can try assuming that the other person is doing their best, that they’re coming from a positive place, or even that they’re actually not thinking about you at all and so you shouldn’t take whatever they’re doing personally. 

By making it a point to make some space in your mind to entertain something positive about something people, you’re essentially helping your heart grow bigger, and that helps you be more loving with everyone you encounter–strangers, acquaintances, and even family members and ultimately, yourself. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, the hugely influential Buddhist monk, teacher, and activist, who recently passed, writes in his book, How to Love: 

 “When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.” 

So making a positive assumption about someone, may be a quick hit, but it has a ton of power behind it. 

That’s it for me this week. I hope you’ll have fun experimenting with these quick hits, and that you’ll come back and re-listen to these episodes you need a little shot in the arm about feeling like a better person. 

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