But I didn't mean to

Let's talk about intentions.

First of all, can we agree that most people have good intentions?

I mean, people are not usually mean and inconsiderate on purpose. If someone hurts our feelings or offends us, they didn't usually intend to do it.

[If you disagree, you might want to reevaluate who you are exposing yourself to.]

During my tenure at the American Red Cross, one of the criteria we were evaluated on was "Sees the best in people and assumes positive intentions."

I loved the fact that it was, like, a RULE you were graded on. What a nice standard to hold people to, right?

Having that expectation set for me at work not only made me assume the best of others, but gave me confidence that my co-workers would be assuming the best about me. I really liked that.

I took that rule with me wherever my career went and adopted it for my personal life as well.

It's pretty efficient - assuming positive intentions saves us a lot of time being unnecessarily mad. It also enhances our ability to be more understanding when someone (presumably unintentionally) trespasses against us.

Think about it...

Have you ever gotten offended because someone was upset with you despite the fact that you hadn't meant to do anything wrong?

Have you ever been met with defensiveness when you were just trying to explain to someone how they upset you?

That's super frustrating, right?

When we want to talk to someone about the negative impact of their words or actions, it's usually for two reasons:

We just want some validation. (gosh darn it!!!!)
We just want to let them know so it doesn't happen again in the future. (pleaseeeee)


But, if in addressing it, we bring out their defensiveness because they didn't mean to hurt us in the first place, we aren't setting ourselves (or them) up for either a successful conversation or outcome.

Here's a recommendation:

The next time you want to let someone know they upset you, try starting off with, "I am sure it wasn't your intention to... but..."

By approaching someone with the benefit of the doubt, hopefully you'll position them to be more understanding and empathetic, rather than feel like they are under attack.

Sometimes, it can be completely exhausting to tiptoe around the feelings of those who have hurt our own so as to spare their fragile egos, yet... what option do we have if we want to actually be heard and understood?

Being intentionally patient really is the the best way to get the outcome you want.

I know, I know. The struggle is real.

This brings me to the the flip-side of this situation... being intentional.

While most of us do not go around intentionally hurting others, that doesn't excuse us from being lazy about intentionally NOT hurting others.

For example, if I am frustrated because you take foreverrrrrr to respond to me, and your response is, "I didn't intentionally frustrate you." Then my response is, "Well, you didn't intentionally NOT frustrate me, now did you?!?!?!!"

Being kind, considerate, thoughtful and accommodating doesn't always come easy to all of us, especially when we are busy with a gazillion responsibilities and things on our minds.

But, let's please all remember that while we are assuming others' best intentions, it is equally important for us to be intentional in our own behavior toward the people we care about.

Ugh, I know. So much workkkkkk.

Come on though - isn't that smile on the face of the person you care about worth it?

I think it is.

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  1. This happens to me sometimes because Im sensitive and I tend to take things personally, even if the other person didn't mean to be rude to me. Im glad you see this and discussed it here. It would be nice if more people were kind, thoughtful, considerate.

    1. Im Bridget, who wrote the above comment. I don't know how to put my name in the upper left yellow logo.

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