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Change Your Relationships by Assuming Good

Image of yellow and black butterfly on a deep pink flower. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, good will, Katherine Broadway

I recently talked with a man who works for a newspaper. He was struggling with his career path because of the current climate of mistrust. What was once a career of excitement and a feeling of public service has become one where the community doesn't value his work. He also struggles to find coworkers who are open to new ideas.

He went into the newspaper business because he believes in the idea of free speech and all that it brings to a life of free choice. Today, he finds the national climate attacking the media has trickled down to the local level. It has become harder to do his job because no one trusts the local reporters either, and he experiences personal attacks from acquaintances and even strangers who learn what he does. With the distrust of the news and everyone who works in media, it is breeding an atmosphere of fear.

As we talked, the subject of good will came up. He realized that if he could embrace good will instead of ascribing a negative intent to each interaction, he could see the situation much differently.

It's Nothing Personal….

What is happening is not personal, it is a symptom of a larger problem. This man’s dilemma speaks to all of us. The assumption of ill will is running rampant on social media and is bleeding into personal relationships.

On social media, friendships are suffering because of a lack of good will. Statements made as personal opinions are being heard as though they are personal attacks. These statements are not just about politics or religion. They happen in discussions about anything where a speaker and a reader are passionate about the topic. Conversations happening between friends, partners and coworkers are being misinterpreted as having ulterior motives, when it is an opinion, a mistake or simply someone having a bad day.

To quote a friend of mine, “If people can realize that we are talking about concepts and ideas instead of making every attack personal or taking every attack personally, then we are on our way to being able to have a discussion again.” It is through lively, honest, good-willed discussion that we learn and grow. It is a way to increase intimacy, but only if we can stay in the conversation with respect and good will.

Unfortunately, good will does not come easily but it can be developed.

Ways to Train Yourself to Assume Good Will

1. Stay in touch with your feelings:

How you feel will influence how you hear what others say. Make sure your filters are not distorting the message.

2. Everyday compliment someone for something they have done:

Practice looking for the good in those who surround you. If you do not have a face-to-face interaction with someone every day, use social media, email, text or even that old-fashioned instrument the telephone to contact someone to express thanks, appreciate and/or gratitude.

3. Pause, and remember what you're working to accomplish:

When someone says or does something that irritates you, hurts you or inconveniences you, these are the moments of truth. Remember that you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Give yourself permission to take a moment to focus on your breath and imagine that the event has nothing to do with you. After all, it may not.

4. Ask for clarification:

If you are unable to disconnect from taking the situation personally, ask for a brief explanation. You could say something like, “I am confused. Could you help me understand what you mean?” Until someone tells you their intent, your explanation is a fantasy. Look for facts, don’t write fiction in your mind.

5. Ask yourself, “How important is it?”

Let go of the little things. At times, everyone makes mistakes, speaks without thinking and goes into their own world, yourself included. Life is short, concentrate on the good things.

When you practice compassion, kindness and listening the world you occupy becomes safer. When you no longer assume everything you experience from other people is a personal attack, you become less defensive in your own words and actions. Having trouble feeling criticized and attacked by others? I can help you sort through your personal filters and find a clearer picture of what is happening. Call Me at: (919)881-2001.

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