On Assuming the Best in Others

Whenever Lucy starts crying, I run through a mental checklist — is she tired? is she hungry? does she have a dirty diaper? is she overstimulated? does she want to be held? I quickly try to quickly assess what is bothering her and then take care of whatever that need is.

I never once assume that something intrinsic to who Lucy is as a baby is what is causing her to cry. The checklist is all external factors and all the “problems” are grounded in what Andi and I need to do for her. Think about it — have you ever blamed a baby for crying?

Lucy’s mood swinging from happy to upset…My first thought is — What did I do / what changed in her environment to cause this?

Although there are some evil people in the world, I generally believe that people are good. But somehow when anyone not a baby is upset, my first thought is not, “I wonder what their day/week has been like leading up to this moment that could have caused this behavior?”

We are *mostly* rational beings, but we all have moments of irrationality. Mine, right now, are at 3am. Lucy is going through sleep regression which has caused her to wake up every hour or two wanting to be held. I don’t blame Lucy for feeling lonely / scared when she wakes up, but instead blame Andi for anything my sleep addled brain can think of (it’s her turn to get up or if only she put Lucy in those pajamas to sleep). And then if Andi gets upset because she definitely hasn’t been able to sleep for more than 1–2 hours either, I go further down the blame spiral. This spiral is all about how her reaction to this situation is driven, not by the fact that she is strung out, but driven by my internal 3am commentary of who she is as a person.

And we don’t just do this to people we love but also to complete strangers. That person that cut you off on the highway (1) isn’t a person; they are an [insert whatever expletive you want here] and (2) they cut you off because they are the devil reincarnate.

Stephen M.R. Covey — ‘We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.’

How can we start assuming the best in those around us? I love the books Crucial Conversations and Tools of Titans because they have some practical advice for these moments. Here is some of theirs, mixed with my own:

  1. Deep breathing when the spiral is starting
  2. Start with heart — what do I really want right now?
  3. Notice the role that you play in the stories you are telling — When I’m driving, do I subconsciously speed up to keep people from passing causing them to cut me off?
  4. Think and then genuinely wish the other person is happy!

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