In dealing with customers, colleagues, and others, assume good intent. To be clear, I’m not naive enough to think that no one has bad intent. I just believe, deep in my heart, that most people have good intent in whatever they do. I believe that most people are honest, compassionate, hard-working, and want the best for themselves and everyone else. I tend not to hear insults and petty criticisms and, when I do, I usually ignore them.
Can You Really Know Intent?
You can’t really know intent. When I hear someone say, “I know what you’re up to.”, I often wonder, “Do you really or do you just think you do?” Do you have the ability to look inside the other person’s mind and know for a fact what their intent is? Or, is it just your belief about what they’re up to? Here’s the crazy thing. Psychologists tell us that what we say about other people often discloses what we believe about ourselves. It’s called projecting. In other words, if you believe, without proof, that another person has a hidden agenda or ill intent, is it possible that you’re just projecting your own ideas onto another person?
Be Careful What You Project
In my own experience, I’ve found that the people and organizations who are the least trusting are often the least trustworthy. I once worked for an organization who was incredibly distrustful of their employees and contractors. That same organization was started when the founders stole customer information from another company. They assumed bad intent on the part of their employees and contractors, but perhaps they were just projecting their own bad intent.
Assume Good Intent
So, assume good intent on the part of your customers and colleagues. Assume that the end user who fell for a phishing scheme did not intend to be sloppy. Assume that your colleague who dropped the ball on a task did not intend to be irresponsible. This, in no way, means that we ignore dangerous or irresponsible behaviors. It means that we focus on the behavior and not the character or personality of the person.
Frankly, as cliche as it is to say, none of us are perfect. None of us have entirely pure intent, but most of us have mainly pure intent. When a customer or a colleague does something bad, try assuming that their intentions were good. Then, focus on correcting the behavior, not the person.
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