Assume Positive Intent

consideringTo be good problem solvers, we need to listen. To listen well, we need to listen carefully. Listening carefully requires us to really try to hear and understand what others are saying. And that takes effort.

Not just effort to pay attention, but also in forming opinions and passing judgement, which can happen very rapidly. It can be instinctive to jump to conclusions rather than push ourselves to analyze further. Such is the case when we feel the person speaking is working against us.

If we think someone is speaking with malice, we’ll shut down. That person is not worth listening to, because he’s working against us for some reason. And the reason is likely his own political agenda and not truly relevant to the matter at hand.

When we shut down so quickly, though, we lose an opportunity to learn. What if the person is actually trying to help? What if he is saying something important and you’re not hearing it?

If you assume positive intent, you will hear things differently. More completely. And put it through a bit of analysis. You’ll engage more directly, ask follow up questions, consider the point more carefully.

Rather than spend cycles figuring out whether someone is coming from a good or bad place, just assume its all good. In this way, you’re focused on the content of the communication. And you will analyze it further. If it’s not good information, you’ve lost nothing through the extra effort. But if it contains something you needed to hear and understand, you avoided missing something important.

Photo credit: Kate Curry