“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all that’s all that ever have.” – Margaret Mead
If you have ever worked in an office environment or any environment where you are close to a lot of people, you are probably aware of how easily a negative tone can overtake the workplace. It may start with a person having a bad day and that bad day turns into several bad days which leads to them expressing their discontentment to their coworkers, who then start to share their own discontentment. Pretty soon they are looking outwardly at other coworkers about who is or is not doing what they should or should not be doing and the entire feeling of the department has changed. They may be upset about recent changes in their departments or in the company as a whole, and are wanting affirmation they are not alone being upset. They may feel forgotten, underpaid, or unappreciated by their team and bosses. And thus begins the breeding ground for negativity and hostility in the workplace.
Maybe you’re not in a work environment, but a casual setting. I’m sure we all have been on a ladies night when the conversation turns to their relationships and partners. Which husband doesn’t help out around the house or with the kids? Which husband would rather play video games than take you out? Which one hasn’t picked up a sock or a laundry basket in years? Once one of the women start venting, very often the others join suit and attack of the men begins.
Are we being compassionate, sympathetic, or helpful to our friends when we join in this banter; or are we just bitching to get it off our chest? How often have you had these chats and found you go home and are angry at your husband because Sally’s husband is more romantic, or Jane’s husband takes her on trips. Pretty soon we are focusing on what is lacking in our own relationships, rather than being grateful for the life we have and the partner we have. After all, does your husband know what you consider romantic? Do you know each other’s love languages? Do you know that while Jane is being whisked away to Mexico, their credit cards are maxed and they are behind in their mortgage? Maybe, but maybe not. Keeping up with the Jones’s can be rough!
During our recent team meetings we were discussing out own growing pains as a team and the current morale on our team. One of my colleagues referenced the phrase, “assuming positive intent;” meaning assume people have good intentions and are doing the best they can in their positions. We don’t know another person’s personal situation; why they tired and crabby, why they are always gone from work, or why their productivity may seem lower than others. We can only assume they are working their hardest, doing the best they can with their resources, and have great intentions. Be compassionate towards others – after all, you aren’t walking their shoes. This is the idea behind “assuming positive intent.”
I went back to my desk and thought about how this theory of assuming positive intent could help me in my own evolution process. I’m an analytical person; I look to details and facts for decision making and tend to know the pros & cons to an issue fairly quickly. Having this mindset, it can often times put me in a not-so-open or even negative mindset..not what I’m wanting out of life or how I want others to perceive me. It’s draining and no one wants to be called “negative Nancy.”
So how could assuming positive intent help me grow as a person and lead a happier life? I investigated this theory in more detail and thought about how I could incorporate it into my daily life and what the benefit would be to me. Here’s what I came up with. Disclaimer: it’s SO SIMPLE! If I worry less about what everyone else is or is not doing, my stress levels should and happiness should, increase. My mind won’t be racing with a thousand thoughts about how it’s possible Suzy coworker comes in after me and leaves before me. I’m going to assume she has a good reason and I’m also going to assume my boss is a capable person that can handle the situation. Obviously this will be easier said than done and in my case often times when one things starts bothering me, it can quickly escalate and pretty soon, everything can bother me.
In my quest for finding a process of “assuming positive intent,” I ran across Byron Katie’s, The Work. I had never heard of her and the more I read the more fascinated, I became. I’m an action-oriented person and her theories and ideas fit my personality and goals very well. In her process, she offers a facilitation guide to help you walk through the steps. It was easy to use and very insightful; actually, MIND BLOWING!
My goal for the next 12 weeks is to really focus on assuming positive intent with my peers, coworkers, and family. Here’s my game plan:
- I’m going to reference the material I learned from Byron Katie and attempt to use it when negative thoughts appear.
- I’m going to take a deep breath before saying anything to anyone about my thoughts.
- When negativity arrives, I’m going to take a quick walk around my building or block. Since I’m so passionate, I may find it easier to remove myself from the situation. Also, in doing this, I will be removed from anyone else’s negative intentions.
- Meditate to bring myself back to my core and realign my focus.
- Use my essential oils, such as “Joy” or “Peace and Calming” to bring me back to my “happy place.”
I picked 5 different ways to practice this so that no matter what situation I was in, one of them should be a doable solution. I’m excited to try this and see the effect I can have on others and myself by assuming positive intent in my life!