When times are tense, tempers run short. And when someone is doing something to frustrate you, you have the tendency to assume the worst.
Whether it’s your kid, your spouse, a neighbor, your boss, or a coworker, we all tend to assign the worst possible motive to the actions of anyone who has done something to upset, hurt, offend, or just generally irritate and annoy us. And because of that assumption, we deal with them far more harshly than we would have otherwise.
But now more than ever, we would benefit from assuming the best of others rather than the worst. So here are 3 assumptions you should make about someone who’s frustrating you.
When we aren’t getting what we feel like we need from someone, or when we’ve had an interaction with them that leaves us feeling uneasy, we tend to think that they just don’t care about us.
My friend didn’t text me back. She’s probably ignoring me. She thinks she’s SO important.
My coworker didn’t get me what I need to finish this project. He doesn’t even care about helping me.
My husband left his dish in the sink AGAIN. He just thinks I’m his maid!
But these aren’t the most helpful (or accurate) assumptions we could be making.
Because maybe they’re just overwhelmed or preoccupied. Maybe they made an honest mistake. Maybe they’re doing their best. Maybe they could actually use some help. Maybe there’s something you could do to make the situation better.
So before you pile on, pause and choose to believe that the other person is doing their best but is simply imperfect (just like you).
When you assume the worst about someone’s intentions, you construct a narrative in your mind that paints yourself as the victim and the other person as the villain.
But it’s important to remember that no one is the villain of their own story. And unless someone has some serious dysfunctions–which, admittedly, some do–they probably aren’t sitting around thinking of ways to negatively impact the lives of the people around them.
Maybe someone failed to get back to you because they’re overworked and extremely tired. Maybe their tone with you was terse because they were preoccupied with some bad news they just received. Maybe they didn’t actually mean what you thought they meant when they said something that offended you. Maybe there’s a story that you don’t know about.
So instead of immediately attacking, seek to uncover that story first.
When your feelings are hurt, it’s tempting to begin seeing the person who hurt you as your enemy. Sometimes we even think this way about someone who just disagrees with us, whether politically or otherwise.
But by holding the assumption that someone is out to get you, you may be assigning more importance to yourself than you should. It’s not likely that the other person is out to get you. They’re probably more interested in just getting by.
So you might be thinking that someone hates you, when in fact they don’t even realize that they offended you–let alone that they did it on purpose. Because the fact of the matter is that most people are so worried about being liked themselves that they don’t even realize that you’re just as worried about exactly the same thing.
When you assume that another person’s stance toward you is at worst neutral (and maybe even positive), it goes a long way toward defusing a confrontation before it even starts.
Be as charitable about the motives of others as you are about your own.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:2). And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want someone to assume that I’m a lost cause every time I make a mistake or do something regrettable.
So practice empathy toward the people in your life, even (and especially) when you feel like they’ve wronged you. If you do, you might find better ways to resolve your conflicts, and you’ll deepen relationships rather than allowing them to become distant.
Foster support rather than suspicion, friendship rather than animosity. If you do, your words will be gentler, your conflicts will be smaller, and your life will be fuller.