"What if people are doing the best they can?" asks Brene Brown in this short video.
Generous assumptions means thinking that people are doing the best they can. It means giving the people around us the benefit of the doubt -- that they do have positive intentions and are trying their best to navigate this complicated, challenging world.
While making generous assumptions might sound easy, it's not. It can be difficult for us to be charitable in our thoughts when our brain feels judgmental, frustrated, or disappointed. Our brain quickly reminds us of past behavior patterns and times when we've felt let down and angry, and we jump to the land of judgement, with thoughts such as, "Why can't they change? Don't they care about me?" and,"What's wrong with them?"
Here's a secret, though. Putting attention to and working on practicing generous assumptions is not done for anyone else -- it's done for us.
We might think that when we assume someone is doing their best we're letting them off the hook or saying their behavior is OK. That's not it. We don't make generous assumptions for the direct benefit of others; we do it to benefit how we think and feel.
Generous thoughts immediately soften our body and brain, loosen our anger, and allow us to tap into our compassion. Holding negative thoughts about someone else doesn't hurt them -- it only hurts us, our body, our brain, and our spirit.
In a recent coaching call, a client was voicing intense frustration about someone in her life. I asked, "What if you practiced generous assumptions about this person right now?"
As she did, she immediately noticed a few changes. Her heart rate slowed, her anger lessened, and her heart was able to fill a bit more with love and compassion.
When our heart opens up, it allows us to interact with the other person in a different way -- in a way that offers more calm than stress, more kindness than hostility, and more curiosity than judgement.
Let's bring this to you: think of one person in your life right now who usually triggers anger and frustration. Now, for a moment or two, try out the mindset of generous assumptions: What if this person was doing the best they could in their life right now? What do you notice?
Your brain might respond saying, But I know they're not! or, They could be trying harder! That's OK. Like any new mindset, making generous assumptions takes practice.
Thanks for trying out this practice and helping bring a bit more kindness into the world.
I'm grateful for you!
p.s. New episode of my podcast In the Right Direction is available! Listen in to this episode to learn the 4 steps to tackling analysis paralysis.
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