Updated: Sep 22, 2020
This Is One Of The Most Important Traits In Life
Where do I begin with the importance of this? I wish this skill were taught in grade school. For me, when I learned this, it provided me a sense of inner peace and power in my life that had been missing. While we are only going to scratch the surface of the importance of Assume Good Intention (A.G.I.), I hope that for some of you, this will be a lightbulb moment.
“ I was an angry 20-something young adult. Everyone sucked, and I felt like most people were out to get me”
If someone cut me off in traffic, I needed to let them know they had done me wrong. I would speed up, honk my horn, flip my middle finger at them, roll down the window, and scream. If someone cut me off in a line, they heard about it. I was not going to let anyone take advantage of me or take something from me. I felt like I was fighting for survival all the time.
Working With People Is Tough
I went into veterinary medicine because I like pets more than people. Early in my career, I found myself having no patience for people that upset me. No one had prepared me for the level of exhaustion that one may experience from dealing with veterinary clients. In veterinary medicine, we must deal with animals that do not want to be handled, the medicine itself, and trying to make the client happy. That’s a lot of stress. My very first job in veterinary medicine, I was not prepared for the anxiety that some clients caused me. I wish I had known how to assume good intention. Instead, I walked around, angry and stressed, not knowing how to handle my emotions.
Every day we see ourselves and our colleagues being angry and bitter over very trivial things. The doctor wasn’t trying to make the technician’s life harder because they forgot to write a prescription. The doctor was busy, or maybe they forgot. It was not, however, their vendetta against the client to not write the prescription. There is no need for the team to start gossiping about it. “She’s always forgetting. I told her to write the prescription three times. Now the client is here and wants to know why it’s not ready.” The doctor didn’t withhold a prescription in an effort to attack anyone. They just forgot because they were busy all day. Assume good intention.
The client kept you on the phone for 20 minutes talking about ticks. Many of us hang up the phone and start giving away our energy by telling anyone who will listen, "I just spent 20 minutes talking to a client who would not stop talking about a tick. It's a tick! Don't they have something better to do!" Just stop. It's exhausting. They called a veterinary hospital to seek professional medical advice because they love their pet. They weren't trying to ruin your day. They did not know. They called a medical professional. They love their pet. Assume good intention.
Being Nicer Is Easier
I want you to think of a time that you were outraged. Maybe you cried, threw things or screamed. Perhaps you just shut down and became quiet because you were so overwhelmed by the situation. It was a terrible day and a horrible situation. You were angry, furious, and ticked off beyond comprehension. By the end of that awful day, you were exhausted. The only thing that could make it slightly better was to just go to bed. “Maybe it will be better in the morning,” you likely thought. I know we all have one of those days we remember as being one of the worst days in our lives.
Being negative and cynical all the time takes away your energy. It's exhausting to be angry and miserable. Every time vent to our team about something trivial we are giving away our energy and filling ourselves with exhaustion.
Now I want you to think about the time you had a great day. It was a happy day where you laughed and smiled a lot. Perhaps you had a fantastic day with friends or family. Maybe you went to see a comedy show or a great movie. Maybe you went out to a restaurant, ate fantastic food and shared some laughs. Better yet, it might have been a vacation. Regardless, you did something tremendously fun. How did that make you feel? I hope you are smiling right now, thinking about it.
Being positive reinvigorates you and gives you energy. It's a wonderful experience to be happy and positive. When we hang up the phone call from a client who kept us discussing about a tick and just go about our day we keep more energy to ourselves.
So how can we think better thoughts about people? How can we stop our cynicism and assume good intention?
· STOP: Do not react. It’s not worth it. Don’t give away your energy.
· THINK: What could be the reasons this individual is reacting or acting this way? Try to put yourself in their shoes.
· BREATHE: Count down from ten and think only about your breath.
· RELAX: Let it go. Unless reacting (through explaining or showing emotion) will benefit you or the pet in some way, then keep your energy! You need that energy to treat the pet patients and deal with the day-to-day tasks of your job.
· REACT: If you need to react to keep your reaction unemotional, fact-driven, and short.
Check out the full podcast on Assuming Good Intention here: