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27 December 2007

P is for positive intent

Positive "Look to their positive intent, especially when they appear to have none." -Kare Anderson

In 2008, I am going to assume positive intent.

Assuming positive intent isn't a new concept, but I think it has far-ranging implications. The conversation changes and opens up when we assume positive intent. It has the potential to revolutionize our lives. Truly.

If I start from a position of negativity: "He's out to get me." "She wants me to fail." "They are irresponsible or lazy or mean or...." If I start there, I have shut the door on dialogue and learning and alignment and growth and relationship.

When your partner gives you a blender rather than a wood opal 18K ring from the Spirit of the Earth Gallery in Santa Fe for your birthday (simply hypothetical), assume positive intent first: "He must know how much I love strawberry smoothies in the morning!" When a coworker tells you something hurtful: "She must want to help me do my best." It might not be true, but framing it in that way saves you from the kind of anger it's too easy to feel. Why not?

You'll find possibilities every day to assume negative intent....or to reframe that into assuming positive intent. What would that do to your blood pressure, your way of being in the world? Try it tomorrow. When you find yourself growling in anger at something someone has done--cut you off in traffic? Maybe their child is hurt and they are racing to get to the hospital. Does it really matter if they're not?

This isn't about being a pollyanna and unrealistic. It's about eliminating opportunities for anger in your life - and sometimes it's about opening the door for dialogue. If I start from a blaming place: "How could he do this?" "She's out to get me," then there's no place for us to go from there.

Open space--in your own heart and in the space between you and someone else--by assuming positive intent.

Intentions: When something or somebody rubs me the wrong way or does something I don't like, I'm going to take a deep breath, count to three, and assume positive intent first. It might change everything.

From the last alphabet challenge: P is for Pentimento :: Palimpsest :: Paint :: Pen


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We may walk a bit longer today since last weekendwell we wont rehash technical difficulties P is for Positive Intent - Patti says (among other insightful things) This isnt about being a pollyanna and unrealistic. Its about... [Read More]


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I so love the message of this post, Patti. It is my mantra whenever I begin to feel the "they all hate me" bile rising, to simply repeat to myself that we are all doing our best, despite appearances which might lead one to think otherwise. In fact, I sometimes challenge loved ones who are mad at me with that very statement: do you really, honestly think I am not doing the best I know how to do?

It isn't always so, but it is the best place to start from.

I'm trying to pretend that this one doesn't have ME written all over it...and failing miserably...

I am constantly trying to figure out why I turn into a completely different person when I drive (I live in the DC area, so you KNOW it's a real challenge), but I think if I drive with the perspective of positive intent, I'll feel more at peace. Thanks, Patti!

What a great message. I know that my life changed the day someone told me, "People don't do things to you; they do things for themselves." Now when I'm hurt by someone's actions, I try to figure out their motivation. In most cases, it's easily apparent.

Rick - what an important addition to this post - many, many thanks. That's exactly it--people *are* doing the best they can, even when it doesn't meet *our* inestimable standards! Thanks for that reminder....

Marilyn - me, too. Of course, my intentions for 2008 are *all* things I need to work on!

t-rae - having lived in DC for 20 years, I completely understand this! Assuming positive intent won't change the behavior of maniac drivers around you, but it will sure change you and make your feel more at peace in the swirling chaos of the Beltway!

Donna - I really, really love that phrase. It has everything to do with the direction of intention, doesn't it? It's an important addition to my life - many thanks!

While I am enjoying framing things with a positive perspective and am well versed in the glad game, there are still injustices in the world that may require the good swift kick in the pants that only a dose of anger can deliver.

Imagine if Rosa Parks had framed her oppressors intentions in a positive light. Sure, she was forgiving and compassionate, but, she also harnessed her anger.

I'm working in a sexist industry (film), where time and again there are fewer than 10 percent female crew members in the credits. Half of those are in the positions of assistant, make-up, wardrobe, script supervisor - all jobs that are typically is nearly 2008, I can frame it positively. I can also incite others to action.

grace, T - great point. I think perhaps yours is a both/and equation, not an either/or. So many times, the kind of change processes that we adopt don't work--and yet we persist in using them. Sometimes I believe that is because we are *against* something, but not *for* something. Perhaps 2008 is a good time to explore how change really happens....thanks for the fantastic food for thought...

so far, this is the best I've been able to fashion into a statement about it:
Women, like any other minority, have learned to identify with heroes who don't look like them or have the same genitalia. We've learned to look beyond the structure of a body and instead dive further into characteristics. I just want the same opportunity for straight, white men, that's all....

I'm grateful for every opportunity I create in that industry and conscious of the opportunities I create for others....

I don't think it's a matter of anyone out to get me or the under represented, just an oversight and a lack of consciousness about it...and of course, blatant sexism- can be unlearned. There is hope.

I love this essay! I was reading Donna's comment and I thought of something that I tried to work on with myself. I would catch myself saying things like "oh, she makes me so mad" and I'd realize that the other person wasn't *making* me mad, I was choosing to be mad or whatever ugly emotion was on tap. People act like jerks to us, but we choose how to react. I guess this is along the lines of Patti's positive intent message.

I can't tell you how meaningful this message is to me. And I am making it my New Year's resolution. Thank you.

grace, t - I *love* that statement! And I'm so gratified to know that you have hope for change. I think we must all feel that way in order to keep helping people become more aware (ourselves included)...

Jillian - ah, yes, it gets down to choice (ours), doesn't it? Thanks so much for that important reminder...

Maryam in Marrakesh - I'm glad it held meaning for you - and I hope you'll let me know how you are doing with the resolution in the coming year....

And what do we do when somebody is NOT out to get us but is simply afraid we'll succeed, can't master that fear because she isn't honest with herself about it, and is in a position to ensure my failure (my supervisor?

I can assume she means well all I like, but if she doesn't DO well and I can't counteract it (after all, what's there for me to counteract; I'm supposed to behave as though she means WELL), then the result is precisely the same failure on my part that would've resulted if she INTENDED the limitations, frustration, and failure that her fear set up and made reality.

And I can turn a blind eye and rationalize as though none of her fear-based obstructions were truly occurring, or that they don't matter, or I can act as if the problem is ME and MY attitude right up until my:

--Pay increase is smaller than it should be;

--My performance evaluations make no note of the unwelcome, high-performing skills I possess which I'm not allowed to exercise;

--I'm damned with faint praise (but since I receive none at all, that's not really a problem);

--And I leave the company.

Oh, well. Let's think positively about THAT.

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