All signs point to the fact that I’m human. Like this one:
I’m in a cab on my way to a meeting, and, instead of taking 5th Avenue, the cabbie is on 2nd—and it’s taking forever. There I am in the back seat, getting more and more frustrated. I’m thinking horrible things about how he doesn’t know what he’s doing, how cab drivers just aren’t what they used to be and how I’m going to be late, late, late—even though I left with plenty of time to spare.
Finally, I say something to this effect out loud. He calmly and politely tells me that there is a parade on 5th and that the cross streets are closed for 30 blocks in each direction. We arrive a short few minutes later, and (who knew?) I’m the first one there…everyone else’s cabbies didn’t think to go around the parade…they thought to sit in traffic.
Insert foot…into mouth.
The out-of-the-gate assumption was that the cab driver had bad intentions. Listen, if I’d found a present in my kitchen of the unpleasant puppy variety…and, indeed, had a puppy living in that kitchen, then I would understand my jump to the bad conclusion. But why in this case? I did not know this man from Adam, but here I was assuming he was trying to do me wrong.
Newsflash: it’s not just me. And I don’t say this in a defensive sort of way. I say it because, first, I can see many of you out there nodding your heads. And second, as the leader of a company full of people in an industry where positive relations and human-based intercommunications are critical…I see this behavior a lot.
My best guess, which coincides with the things doctors and media outlets tell us on a regular basis, is that this a by-product of the rigors of our busy, corporate lives: we’re moving too fast, have too much stress and competition, way too much multitasking and not enough down time…all of which equal grouchy and aggressive. But, and here’s the funny part, when I assume someone else has bad intentions, it unequivocally makes me grouchier . Think about it: I tell myself a horrible, make-believe story that riles me up…AND IT ISN’T EVEN TRUE! Creating pain out of nothing at all.
During the meeting process, there are countless opportunities for each and every one of us to assume best or worst intentions…
Situation: The brainstorm you spent all night dumping onto the conference room whiteboard is erased.
Assumption: Someone disregarded your work and time completely!!!
Reality: The conference room was needed for an important meeting, so your colleague took a picture of the board for you, and then erased it for the meeting.
Ah ha! Good intentions.
Okay, okay…none of us can deny that sometimes some people actually do have bad intentions or simply do jerky things. But if we start with the thought of best intentions, we’ll save ourselves from undo stress and negativity, AND our positivity will infuse our teams. Also, I’m guessing, you’ll find that the good intention is in there somewhere.
So you can go around the parade of grouchiness and still be human—albeit the good kind.