Giving people the benefit of the doubt.
This statement asks us to set aside our first reaction to judge and replace it with curiosity and goodwill. As it turns out, this is much easier said than done because we first have to recognize that tendency in our self. The next time you are sitting in a meeting, mark a dot on a piece of paper each time your first response to a statement or behavior is to judge. When you make a dot, practice giving them the benefit of the doubt. Ask them a question instead of telling them why they are wrong.
- Could you tell me more about your idea?
- What are you hoping to achieve if you do that?
- Could you help me understand why you feel so strongly about this?
Or, you could just change your thinking towards tolerance.
- What might be their good intentions?
- This person takes their job seriously. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt.
- I need to make room for people who think and act differently than me?
Expand your knowledge by listening
It is easy for all of us to hear a little information and quickly find fault. When you find yourself immediately getting worked up about a decision or a process, instead of venting your concerns to others, commit to learning more from a reliable source.
- Approach them with the intention to learn, not to put them on the spot.
- Could you help me understand how you reached your decision?
- What other options did you consider? Why was this decision chosen?
- I wasn't included on the meeting invite. Would you mind explaining to me why that was?
Cut them some slack.
It is easy to zero in on small mistakes and tune out the good. Making it worse, is the tendency to talk about those small mistakes to others. I notice this all the time; the few snippets that are shared about meetings are the awkward jokes, the tense moments and the off-base ideas. And yet, those meetings were probably filled with people being very thoughtful and working hard to solve problems. This is where our tendency to judge and spread the news of people's imperfections can cause a great deal of harm. I think we all would like people to look beyond our weaknesses and see the good. Fortunately, the solution to this tendency is simple: Don't tell stories about the weak moments.
Take people off your list.
Sometimes people irritate us so much that we expect them to irritate us before they even open their mouths. With that attitude we become blind to the good they do and reinforce the bad. When I realize that I'm doing that to someone, it helps me to write their name down and jot down ideas that will give them a fairer chance. I might choose to get to know them better. Or, actively look for all the ways they are successful. I might talk to others who admire them. Sometimes I silently wish them peace whenever I start feeling judgmental.