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Assume Positive Intent


I (Mark) can be pessimistic at times and it seems natural for me to assume negative intent.  I prefer to look at all angles and outcomes, with emphasis on worst case scenarios.  An example was when Mel forgot to text me when her plane landed as she was going to visit her mom in Phoenix.  I judged that she didn’t care as much about me as she did for her mom.  When Mel finally did call and tried to share her excitement about being with her mom, I quickly squelched her excitement with my accusatory tone and cutting words.

After deplaning I visited the restroom and called Mom to arrange curb-side pick-up.  Chatting with my seatmate at the baggage claim, my goal was to get out the door and see my Mom after months apart.  I was caught off-guard by Mark’s harsh words, and felt compelled to explain my delay in calling.  I felt hurt by Mark’s accusation and was eager to end the call and get back to Mom. 

Sometime later, we learned about the importance of “assuming positive intent” in our relationship.  It was a real a-ha moment for us.  We discussed times in the past when we had judged the other didn't care and were quite wrong, resulting in tension or hurt between us.  We both wanted to change this and decided together to strive to always assume positive intent.

An example of this was when I prepared dinner one evening and Mel was supposed to be home by 6:30 pm from work but she didn’t get home until 7:00 pm.  Rather than think Mel was inconsiderate and brainstorm reasons she chose not to call or get home on time, I thought about how Mel is a considerate person and something must have unexpectedly delayed her.  In assuming positive intent, I pictured Mel taking care of a late customer or lending a listening ear to a fellow employee who needed someone to talk to.  I pictured Mel being her normal sweet, kind-hearted, generous self.  All of a sudden, it wasn’t such a big deal to find a way to keep dinner warm for when she got home.

Arriving home after a long day at work to a delicious meal and loving, supportive husband breathed new life in to me.  I could tell that Mark realized I had a good reason for coming home late from work.  I felt relieved, happy, and affectionate.  After dinner we cuddled and enjoyed our evening together, grateful for those three little words – assume positive intent.

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