It’s a big world out there, with SO many personalities, opinions, and ways of looking at life. And we always see eye-to-eye with everyone we meet (that would be weird, right?). how are we going about interacting with those around us? When was the last time you assumed someone’s thoughts or feelings without asking them? If you’re like much of the world, it was probably today, or very recently!
Let’s take that one a bit deeper. Of the thoughts or you assumed, were your assumptions positive or negative? Again, if your answer is “negative,” you’re not alone. Our brains are hardwired to assume the worst possible situation or scenario. This is great if you’re in a life-or-death situation and you need to think 7 steps ahead to survive. But not super helpful when you’re sitting in an office thinking that Susie in Accounting doesn’t like you because you think you saw her give you a funny look the other day … and you assume she probably saw you spill your coffee on the floor and thinks you didn’t clean up your mess … and now the whole office thinks you don’t clean up after yourself.
Flip that script. Right away! What if Susie DID give you a funny look, but it was because she happened to walk around the corner just a split second after she tripped and almost fell in the hallway and she was trying to regain her balance? You see how that information could be easily misconstrued?
Now, what if you assumed positive in others all the time? It sounds stressful, but stay with us … in the case of Susie from Accounting, your day wouldn’t have been ruined for no reason. You would continue about your merry way and maybe just think it was a funny glance caught at the right moment.
Assuming the positive of someone else, or that they have others’ best interests at heart, or that they’re doing their very best, takes a bit of a mindset shift. It’s not our natural instinct! Lucky for you, we have a couple suggestions on how to start!
1. Assume everyone's life (and brain) is busy. Maybe even busier than yours!
We find it difficult to see past our own schedules—it’s only natural. If we’re in an especially slow season, or one that allows for a lot of quiet time in our own head, we think that everyone is in the same season. It’s impossible to know what another human is going through, no matter how well we know them. Struggles aren’t always visible, and it’s a great idea to go into situations remembering that you don’t know what you don’t know.
2. Live "now," not in the "what ifs."
The next time you hear yourself say or think, but what if…”—stop right there! Nine out of 10 times, this isn’t a helpful thought and won’t get you anywhere you want to be. What it WILL do is send you into a spiral of turning something relatively small, into something much larger. This is sometimes referred to as “catastrophizing.”
Instead of hypothesizing and coming up with ALL the things that could happen, turn your attention to “here’s what I know.” Keep these responses to yourself positive, too!
3. When in doubt, ask!
If you’ve made it this far and you’re still uneasy or unsure, there’s a surefire way to solve the spiral. Ask! (And don’t ask Kevin, who’s friends with Ian, who’s friends with Susie. Ask Susie herself.)
If something is gaining so much traction in your head that it’s making other situations in your life difficult, or you feel like you need an answer—open yourself up to be vulnerable and ask whatever question needs asked to the right person. You’ll feel better, the other person will have insight into your thought process, and the very best part … you get to move on and continue living in the now!
Moral of the post? When in doubt, assume it’s positive! Your brain will thank you.