“Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own.”
~John M. Barrie

I hear it all the time – in my own head, from my family members and friends, from my clients. “I can’t believe they did that. What were they thinking? How could they be so mean (stupid, thoughtless, etc.)?”

We seem to know, when others “do us wrong,” that they’re somehow closer to evil than we are on the good-to-bad spectrum.

“I can’t say that at our team meeting,” my client tells me. “So-and-so will use it against me.” “I can’t tell my boss that,” my other client says, “I can’t trust her. She’s only out for herself.”

We ”know” that others are mean. Intentionally mean.

This attitude just doesn’t work. When we think someone is out to get us, knowing they’re mean doesn’t really protect us. If they really are out to get us, then our beliefs will not change anything. And when we “know” they’re mean, we’re blind to them being anything other than mean. We notice their meanness, even if it’s not really there.

Seeing them as mean also blinds us to something else that’s hugely important…how our own meanness may be showing through. We are so focused on their wrong ways that we don’t notice our own.

When we walk into situations viewing others as people with the best intentions, rather than as opponents with mean motives, there is a greater chance that we will walk out with an improved relationship and better results. When we remember that, we’re more likely to get along and get what we need. When we stop and pause when we think others are stupid or callous or mean, and remember that chances are they have a reason behind their actions that seems damn good to them – chances are even, in their minds, they may be acting in our best interests – chances are that we can move forward together.

When have you been wrong about other’s mean motives? How did you learn the truth?
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For support in seeing beyond the meanness, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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