“Why do you ‘assume positive intent’ instead of not making assumptions at all?”
That’s the great question I got from Nicola Long during our Kind Leader Guided Book Club session yesterday. We were discussing the Think Kindly Key Behavior of “Always assume positive intent” when Nic asked this great question:
“I try not to make any assumptions at all. Isn’t that a good idea? That way if I don’t have any assumptions, I’m not upset or hurt however it turns out!” Nic said. “I’m curious about why you suggest assuming positive intent!”
So here’s why!
As people, we are hardwired for negativity bias. That means we tend to focus on the negative over the positive, feel negative emotions more strongly than positive ones, and have negative, unkind thoughts come to mind first. I call that ‘negative first impression’. By consciously working on “assuming positive intent”, you can override that built in negativity bias and create new neural pathways that lead to more positive, kind thoughts.
And those positive, kind thoughts are more likely to lead to kind words and actions! They also lead to fewer stressful thoughts and less mental anguish! In general, most people “aren’t out to get you” (or anyone else) and have good reasons for acting in the way they do! Assuming Positive Intent keeps your thoughts in that space!
As Kind Leaders, it's especially important to practice Assuming Positive Intent, because when you speak and act unkindly while wearing your Leader Hat, you are influencing others to do the same when they are wearing theirs. Modeling practicing assuming that people have the best intentions is one of the best things you can do to help others learn to do the same and break the cycle of unkind thoughts that lead to unkind words and then to unkind actions.
If you're not sure what to do to get better at Assuming Positive Intent, please take a look at Chapter 4 in The Kind Leader! There are lots of tips and tricks and exercises you can do to practice!
Before I end this post, a huge, kind shout out and thanks to Nic for asking the question, sparking a lot of discussion in our Kind Leader Guided Book Club session and for pushing my thinking!
What do you think? I’d love to hear!
If you, your team or your organization would like to take part in a Kind Leader Guided Book Club, please reach out at karyn@KindLeadership.org and we will get you situated!