It's easy to think things other people say and do are "about you" or a "reflection on you", but mostly they aren't! They are about the other person! Read more to learn why!
We had an interesting discussion in our Kind Leader Guided Book Club the other day! We were talking about “assuming positive intent” and a number of people shared examples of how they felt when they found out they were wrong about why someone said or did something that they originally interpreted as unkind and directed towards them.
As people, we have a tendency to “take things personally”, and think that others' words and actions are directed at us, and are a reflection on us! But most often, what other people say and how they act is really about them…and a reflection on them!
Here's a couple of examples:
At the gym, the front desk person says, in a surly way, "Don't forget to put your towel in laundry basket when you're done. The change room is always such a mess." You might think that the person is calling you out, or that someone complained about you. And you might reply in the same terse, unkind way, "Hey. I always clean up after myself. No need to call me out." However, if you take a moment, and "assume positive intent", you might think to yourself, "Gee. That's not the way the front desk person usually acts. Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe their boss yelled at them...I wonder what is up..." Instead of replying unkindly, you might then ask the person if they are okay...
At work, your boss ignores your friendly smile, coldly waves you away and walks into their office. A few minutes later, they send you a text and ask you to join them in the conference room. At this point, you might think to yourself, "Oh no. I wonder what I've done wrong. I hope I don't get in trouble...maybe I'm going to get fired." When you get into the conference room, you have your hackles up...only to find out that your boss had a family crisis and is going to need your help over the next few days. If you'd assumed positive intent, you wouldn't have had to worry, and you wouldn't have thought poorly of your boss!
Kind Leaders know that people are people. And that often they don't act, speak and think kindly because of things going on in their own lives. By practicing "assuming positive intent" and thinking about the reasons others might be acting out in unkind ways, Kind Leaders are able to deescalate tense situations, practice their empathy and compassion, and model how to lead with kindness for others.
So today, before you take something that your boss, co-worker or family member says personally, please remember that in general, how others behave isn’t about you…and doesn’t reflect on you. Then you can choose ways to respond that are kinder. deescalate the situation and have the chance to make things better!
Kindness - and Kind Leadership - leads to more kindness!
Our next public Kind Leader Guided Book Club Community Cohort starts on September 15th! We'd love to have you as part of it!