Frequently, when people are disturbed by other people’s behavior, they will assume negative intent of the other. It is part of the eternal struggle between good and bad humans experience. One that often leads to paying more attention to negative events in a similar way as we quickly become attentive to threats or danger.
It’s a habit. One that can’t be changed quickly nor easily. It requires time and effort. So why would one?
An important point of attention is our ability to use our emotions for information instead of letting them lead us. Assuming a negative intent is an automatic reaction to a situation. The fastest way our body and mind knows to implement such a reaction is to let emotions handle them.
Finding ways to see when and how our emotions are activated is a starting point for more self-awareness. It also can give us the short interruption we need to realize that we have a choice.
A fun way to train ourselves is to use a bingo sheet you design for yourself. In preparing yourself for a meeting you might have an idea of what reactions to expect from others. Any time they occur, take a note and add the emotion that appears in that instant. Let go of any evaluation of the other while using your bingo sheet. It’s there to help you focus your attention on the work you came for and avoid being distracted by any negative assessment.
The next step is to take the time to slightly shift your perspective and see the interaction as being clumsy. It is coherent with your sense of being disturbed and opens a door to a different interpretation. If something is clumsy, there is space to make it better together. And it matches human nature.
A human feature is to want to be kind and generous towards others. However, it isn’t always clear how to do so. Instead of asking direct questions or making a simple suggestion, people try to make ideas and suggestions sound better to the other. It usually happens with what they perceive to be better and less often with what the other person really perceives as needed or helpful.
Allowing themselves to see this dynamic as clumsy frees people to ask questions that help them understand instead of assuming understanding. Once they realize that it is a two-way street, this becomes particularly helpful for leaders who seek to be understood by their team.