Presuming the Best

Like me, do you ever struggle with misinterpreting people’s motives? Your wife makes an innocent comment about something you did, and it raises your hackles, only for it to become obvious that she meant nothing. Or, maybe a co-worker puts something in an email that you assume is “zinging” you only to learn that you misunderstood.

Early in my career, I had a boss who kept a sign in her office, which read simply, “Presume the Best.” I’ve found it to be one of the most practical pieces of advice I’ve ever received. It prompted me to post this verse on my work computer about a decade ago, one that’s still there today: “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” ~ Proverbs 19:11

I expect all of us, at one time or another, have had interactions where we’ve assigned motives, or presumed someone was dissing us, only to learn later that we needlessly escalated an innocent remark into a full-blown conflict.

Emails can be particularly susceptible to misinterpretation. I recall once marching into a colleague’s office because he’d sent me an email on a project that was a week behind schedule. Included was the line: “Your team has caused this delay. I am working on getting this corrected so we can get back on schedule.”

“What do you mean a delay we’ve caused?” I blustered. “We are a week behind because your team is behind.”

“That’s what I said,” he replied. It turns out, it’s what he meant to say. He’d inadvertently typed “your” when he meant to type “our”. I was, in Solomon’s words, proved a fool. “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” ~ Proverbs 12:16

Even when you feel nearly certain another person is being overly critical or judging you, it’s best to look past it. It’s not only solid workplace guidance but worthy advice I’ve passed on to my kids to apply in our families or with our neighbors.

Clearly, you are wise to use caution with someone who has a well-earned record of thoughtless remarks and playing ‘the blame game.’ But all too often, I’ve seen where people too quickly presume the worst motives of someone who hasn’t earned a bad reputation.

I’ve got a ways to go to master this, but having that daily reminder there in front of me definitely helped. If you are particularly susceptible to assuming the worst, put up a small sign like my boss did: Presume the best. You’ll be surprised in the power of following through on that simple concept.

Do you have any helpful reminders posted at home or work to help keep you from tripping up in a certain area?

 Like me, do you ever struggle with misinterpreting people’s motives? Your wife makes an innocent comment about something you did, and it raises your hackles, only for it to become obvious that she meant nothing. Or, maybe a co-worker puts something in an email that you assume is “zinging” you only to learn that you misunderstood.

Early in my career, I had a boss who kept a sign in her office, which read simply, “Presume the Best.” I’ve found it to be one of the most practical pieces of advice I’ve ever received. It prompted me to post this verse on my work computer about a decade ago, one that’s still there today: “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” ~ Proverbs 19:11

I expect all of us, at one time or another, have had interactions where we’ve assigned motives, or presumed someone was dissing us, only to learn later that we needlessly escalated an innocent remark into a full-blown conflict.

Emails can be particularly susceptible to misinterpretation. I recall once marching into a colleague’s office because he’d sent me an email on a project that was a week behind schedule. Included was the line: “Your team has caused this delay. I am working on getting this corrected so we can get back on schedule.”

“What do you mean a delay we’ve caused?” I blustered. “We are a week behind because your team is behind.”

“That’s what I said,” he replied. It turns out, it’s what he meant to say. He’d inadvertently typed “your” when he meant to type “our”. I was, in Solomon’s words, proved a fool. “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” ~ Proverbs 12:16

Even when you feel nearly certain another person is being overly critical or judging you, it’s best to look past it.  It’s not only solid workplace guidance but worthy advice I’ve passed on to my kids to apply in our families or with our neighbors.

Clearly, you are wise to use caution with someone who has a well-earned record of thoughtless remarks and playing ‘the blame game.’ But all too often, I’ve seen where people too quickly presume the worst motives of someone who hasn’t earned a bad reputation.

I’ve got a ways to go to master this, but having that daily reminder there in front of me definitely helped. If you are particularly susceptible to assuming the worst, put up a small sign like my boss did: Presume the best. You’ll be surprised in the power of following through on that simple concept.

Do you have any helpful reminders posted at home or work to help keep you from tripping up in a certain area?