Good Intent

Where are you coming from?

A key person in my life often reminds me to assume good intent, that is, to assume that the other party in a conversation was coming from a point of authenticity if not always helpfulness. It’s an interesting idea, to assume others are starting with that in mind.

In business we’re taught to be cynical, to question the motivation behind the words, the unspoken interests if you will. We don’t take others at their word but engage in psychological mind games trying to predicts moves like a chess game so we can position ourselves for the end game.

What a waste of energy.

What a foolish way to go through life assuming a hidden agenda on everyone else’s part.

Much of what I write about is based on the human condition, primarily the interaction between people at work. In this space we often encounter the head games and posing so many of us loathe in real life. Some of us are conditioned to believe this is normal, that nothing is what it seems and that there is a scheme everywhere.

I’m not so sure.

What I’ve noticed about high performers is that that chief among their attributes is a sense of integrity and focus. You can count on what they say and know that they will not shift concentration away from the big goals of the day.

Does this sound like posing to you?

Assuming good intent means we spend no time wondering about other’s motivation: we save all that mental energy for projects and tasks that it is better spent on. It means we trust each other implicitly and doubt others only when forced to, rather than as a matter of course.

Will others lie to us, mislead us, shade the truth, etc.? Yes they may. In so doing these people might even gain them a temporary advantage through position, power or influence. Yet temporary is the key word here.

In the long run integrity counts, a person’s word still means something and reputations can be solidified or sullied over time.

Assuming good intent means periodically we are surprised when someone turns out not to be what they say, yet, as Maya Angelou told us, people will always show you who they are, so in the end, we don’t need to worry about others’ integrity.

Just our own.

Working with many groups in the diverse and fractured workspace we occupy today takes all of our energy and all of our skill. Reset your assumptions about others to assume good intent, to assume they are enagaged for the best reasons, wanting the right outcomes even if those outcomes may differ from yours.

The days of Machivellian intrigue are past: the world moves too quickly for virtual chess games of the head. Assume good intent and focus your energy and interests on the best we can be.

Assume good intent and welcome how often that intent turns into reality.

 

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