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How to assume good intent..

Social media, for all of its greatness, has allowed us to take swipes at each other, without batting an eyelid.

Using hurtful words to challenge or belittle each other is as easy as writing a few words and clicking send.

But although jumping straight back in with a retort can feel like the right thing to do, it can pay to sit back and assume good intent. By not engaging in an online boxing match, we might be able to understand that a comment probably wasn’t meant as an attack.

Perhaps the perpetrator misread your message or perhaps you misread theirs? It’s easy for comments to get lost in translation when they are only made in writing and some people have more natural tact or a better command of the English language than others.

And it’s not just online that we need to assume good intent. Some days we just get out of bed on the wrong side and everything that happens is (in our minds) there to cause us grief.

Here are some ways to deal with the haters and give them the benefit of the doubt, without being walked all over.

  1. Train you brain

Our brains can easily be convinced that the world is conspiring against us.

You walk into a coffee shop to the back of a long queue and say to yourself:

“That’s just my luck.”

You then get an email from a potential new client saying they don’t want to accept the proposal you’d been working on, so you say to yourself:

“Someone up there is really having a laugh at my expense today.”

The truth is that most of the time, there is no big conspiracy. People have far too much to worry about their own lives to concern themselves with yours.

The queue in the coffee shop is there because someone called in sick today. And the client has been let down by a supplier which means that they won’t be able to do the project to the same scale as they’d originally expected.

When someone reacts negatively towards us, whether that’s online or face-to-face, it can be easy to take it personally and there’s nothing wrong in that. We’re human and it doesn’t feel very nice.

But perhaps we can train our brains to think slightly differently.

Life can get easier and less stressful if we ‘assume good intent’.

Assume that colleagues, clients or friends had positive intentions, identify the situational details and try to see the bigger picture.

  1. Take a deep breath

It sounds like an obvious one but taking the time to let initial upset or fear subside almost always results in better ultimate decisions. Unless it’s unavoidable, take some time to think about how you respond.

If it’s not face-to-face, then you can sleep on it and see how you feel the next day before you send that contentious email. It may need moderating.

  1. Evaluate the threat

This could be a threat to you, your family and friends or your business. If your child is being bullied online for example, quick retorts may feel good but in the long run aren’t going to help.

There is a genuine threat here though, so some response is needed. Perhaps advice is needed from the school or other parents. You will need to talk to your child about it as well before anything is done.

If your business is targeted by hackers, then immediate action needs to be taken to protect your business and clients. It would be hard to assume good intent here.

  1. Assess any opportunities

A negative experience can sometimes bring about new opportunities.

If you don’t immediately shut down an individual or assume the issue is negative, you allow yourself to see the bright side.

Perhaps from standing in a long queue to get your coffee you tried the other coffee shop nearby and realised that you preferred it.

If a client is unhappy and attacks you and your business, it’s not a nice experience. But by opening up the communication and trying to find out what has led to the customer feeling so negatively, you can find out a lot about your business.

Information that may well save you from upsetting other customers in a similar way.

The chances are that if you can connect to the unhappy customer (and are able to help), they will be a loyal customer in the future.

As an example, if a competitor has been trying to steal your clients by under-cutting you on price, you could speak to them (they may be a little sheepish) and agree to a mutual referral scheme.

Work could be passed between you depending on who is more suited.

  1. Don’t have double standards

Remember, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

Often, when we make a mistake, we can blame external factors. But when other people make mistakes, we often judge them more harshly.

  1. Have boundaries

Now, this may all sound very nice in theory but you don’t want to be seen as a push over.

Even if you are assuming good intent, there will be times when that isn’t appropriate because there are some people out there that are always looking to take advantage. Yes, everyone makes mistakes but if people keep making the same mistake, it’s not easy to ignore.

As Goldfinger said to James Bond – a first encounter is happenstance, the second is coincidence but the third may be assumed as enemy action!

Set yourself boundaries you feel comfortable with.

If someone swears, becomes violent or is insulting you personally, then perhaps there is no positive intent there and you need to keep yourself safe. The issue of online trolls is something that the Government is beginning to take more seriously and nobody should have to put up with it.

You may have to defend your business if someone continually writes unfounded negative comments online. You can still handle this in the right way but the idea that there is anything other than malicious reasons behind it, is pretty hard to fathom.

The fact that you have taken a step back and a deep breath will give you some time to decide whether or not someone has crossed the line.

Further Business Advice

Talk us our team here at THP Chartered accountants for further business advice or help with your business’ finances, offering a range of accountancy services like bookkeepingpayrollcloud accounting (Xero and FreeAgent), Tax and much more.

Call us on 020 8989 5147 to chat about our accounting services and how we can help your business reach its potential, with offices in ChelmsfordCheamWanstead  and Saffron Walden.

Avatar for Liz Cordell
About Liz Cordell

I’m an experienced copywriter, with a great attention to detail. Having previously held positions at a global publisher, a top 100 law firm and a Big Four professional services firm, I now work with clients across a range of industries. Whether it’s new content for a website or creating interesting blogs for my clients, I can create engaging copy that doesn’t take a lifetime to read.

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