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Lead with your good intentions.

Lead with your good intentions.

Part of being generous in our thinking when we interact with others is understanding just when that generosity is going to be most important. When we get upset about something, out comes the critic, victim, rebel or bully (or all four!) and our brain automatically goes to blaming and punishing thoughts. Then we’re tempted to take the wrong path and forget all about being generous with our fellow human beings just when it matters most. I found myself in this situation a couple of months ago. I got a call about a situation that appeared to be a repeat of a previous problem that had been resolved. The early facts made it seem like the same thing may be happening again, so I immediately felt the pull to go to blaming the person who should “know better” than to repeat a mistake that we had cleared up once before. And this time, I found that my mind was quicker to jump to a conclusion and tempted to blame them without hearing the full context or giving them a chance to explain the context and circumstances.

Push the pause button.

Having made silly mistakes like this too many times in the past, I’ve learned to pause, take some deep breaths, check my assumptions and wait until I have learned all of the facts. Doing the right thing in a situation like this can sometimes be messy though. If we doubt ourselves, we’ll usually drag a trusted friend into the mix and test our theories about having a right to blame the other person with them. What we’re really doing in this situation is relieving our inner fear by expressing it to someone else who is an innocent bystander, but now we’ve dragged their poor souls into our negativity. While this might be helpful to us, it is not very kind to the trusted friend we bring into our emotional self-doubt and questioning. Alas, in this recent experience I did manage to gather my wits fairly quickly and give the person the benefit of the doubt. I also managed to hold off on forming any final conclusions until I’d spoken with him. Turns out, he was perfectly innocent.

The karmic turnaround.

Now, this week I was on the other end of a very similar situation. Only this time, it was me who was unjustly accused of wrongdoing when my intent was absolutely innocent. I love how the universe sends us practice situations just when we need them. It helped me understand why the person judging me might come to a negative conclusion based on one previous situation that seemed kind of similar. And it helped me to give her the benefit of the doubt - right back. Having just experienced it myself not long ago, I was much more quickly able to see her point of view and why she may have gotten upset. When we had the conversation to clear up the facts, I didn’t mind that she had been angry. It’s what we humans do, after all.

Wait for the conversation.

Something that works wonderfully when it’s time to have that uncomfortable conversation is to lead first with your intentions, which are almost always good. Start with the goal that you value the relationship, even if it’s a new one and you’re just getting to know one another. Focus on the positive outcome you want, but don’t sugar-coat it or avoid the important candor you will need to have an honest but caring conversation. But definitely choose to lead the beginning of the conversation with your genuine intent to build trust and good relations or focus on a common goal. If we try to teach them a lesson or punish them for what we didn’t like, we won’t be accomplishing anything but further mistrust. And we won’t get the outcome we might wish for either. Other adults don’t want to be admonished by us. They want us to think the best of them and be forgiving about our mutual humanness. Only then do things move forward positively.

The lesson?

When we feel cornered and fearful about something, our mind really does like to go straight to shooting the messenger. We don’t like feeling judged and we don’t like being treated unfairly, so both sides are uncomfortable. And we do both so quickly and readily!! That silly lizard brain inside is just waiting for us to react and give our offenders a smack-down. Thankfully there is the noble trait of generosity that comes back after we calm down. And accessing it in the most crucial moments is oh-so important. I learned an important lesson this month. On both sides of it! And survived. It increases self-respect to make progress like this and gives us faith that we can do it again and again, expanding our positive influence by being human - while taking responsibility too.