You know what happens when you assume? No seriously, what happens?
Twelve years ago I met a pastor and just made the assumption that he didn’t like me. He seemed rude, aloof, and not interested, so I decided I would return the favor. I chose not to interact with him, kept him at arm’s length, and when people would mention him I would just stay quiet and in my mind, I’d think, “That guy is a jerk.”
But then one day … years later … I was forced to engage with him. I walked into a lunch that was scheduled for us and I was dreading it. How quick could I get out of here? But after about ten minutes of talking together I realized, I may have misjudged this guy. He was great: humble, kind, generous, and even interested in what I had to say. I assumed incorrectly … for 12 years!
We have a staff core–value around Real Life Church Ministries which is simply this: Assume the Best. In other words, every time someone doesn’t do what you expected them to do ... assume the best. Maybe it wasn’t in their control. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe something big came up at home that took them away … so before we assume they are pure evil … let’s just assume the best. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
So, here are three ways to assume the best … even when everything in you wants to fear the worst.
1) Discover what has moved into their URGENT quadrant … and if you can help.
We have 4 quadrants we prioritize our tasks with:
- Not urgent / Not important
- Not urgent / Important
- Urgent / Not important
- Urgent / Important
Most of us try to operate out of the not urgent/important category … but every now and then something creeps into the IF I DON’T DO THIS RIGHT NOW THERE WILL BE HUGE PROBLEMS category. The car broke down, a child is sick at school and needs to be picked up, etc., etc.. Before you assume someone bailed on the meeting or failed at the deadline because they were just lazy … ask … what moved into that final category … and is there something you can do to help them? Look at this not as a disappointment where they failed you, but as an opportunity where you can serve them.
2) Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load.
We have no way of knowing what is behind the eyes. Many of us are carrying regrets, insecurities, depression, mental health challenges, struggling relationships, wayward kids, unfulfilled dreams, and the list goes on. And just like you and I have bad days and it creeps into our daily work life … so does everyone else.
3) Trust. Then verify.
Yes, I stole that from Ronald Reagan. But for all of you type A personalities out there thinking, “I can’t just assume the best and let people run amuck.” True. So work through steps 1 and 2 and trust that all is well, but then make a note on your calendar to circle back in a week. “Last week you were unprepared for our meeting … how are you bouncing back from that?” Or, “I know you’ve been pretty overwhelmed lately, what steps are you taking to bring order to the chaos? Anything I can do to help?” You get the point. Taking a moment to put this on your calendar for future consideration is a way to put your own mind at ease.
Assuming the best has always been a struggle for most of us who naturally fear the worst. But changing your outlook in leadership just a bit can reduce stress and improve organizational health.