What You Don’t Know...
Part of conflict resolution is assuming positive intent. If we assume positive intent it helps to reduce anger, fight conflict with positivity, and find a resolution. Assuming positive intent in tense situations diffuses and deescalates conflict. Part of it is that we don’t feel targeted, we don’t feel like the person hurt us intentionally. Assuming positive intent can keep the peace. Why should we assume positive intent? Quite simply, we don’t know what we don’t know. It’s important for conflict resolution because we don’t know what the other person is going through. There are numerous scenarios that can lead to a person to not act as their best self. That person may have lost their job and be experiencing financial worries. Difficult situations at home can cause a person to snap. The loss of a loved one takes a toll that could lead to disagreements in the family and that person may project that onto others. They may have a sick family member or may be sick themselves.
Think of a time you snapped at someone because you were having a hard time. Perhaps you were sick, unhappy, or going through a rough time. Did someone extend grace to you when you were not at your best? Did someone tell you it’s water under the bridge to make you feel better? How did you feel? During my pregnancy, I had a difficult time with ER visits and worried about my baby’s health. I had a meltdown at a sandwich shop because I was tired and hungry. I was shown kindness and grace. The manager assumed positive intent and realized I needed compassion.
A loved one became sick and let me know they were having a hard time. I didn’t get a chance to call back and check in that week. When I did get a chance to call, they asked why I hadn’t called and said they thought I would have cared more. After the call I was upset, the person didn’t know what I had gone through that week. Even though I was unhappy about the conversation, I recognized the person was not feeling well. They were worried about something they could not control. I could take the words harshly and become upset, possibly hold a grudge. In the alternative, I could show compassion and assume positive intent.
The words were not what I wanted to hear, but I assumed the words came from hurt feelings not to intentionally criticize me. I planned to call after two days (to let myself calm down and think out what I wanted to say). When I called, the person apologized right away. They felt lonely and scared and knew what they said was wrong. By letting time pass, I allowed for anger to settle down and for rational thinking to resume. When we assume positive intent, it also gives us time to slow down, think, and consider things from a different perspective. Our default reaction can be defensive or dismissive of the other person. We may also react in anger. The next time someone says something that bothers you, assume positive intent. Take a mental note of how you feel. Is your perspective of the situation different? What is the goal when you reply? Hopefully, your reply and how you handle the situation changes for the better by making the small change of assuming positive intent.
©Denise Yusuff Mediations