Do you give people the benefit of the doubt?

We hear this phrase all of the time.  We all think that we know what it means, but do we really? I would argue that we don’t, because if we did there would be much less arguing, frustration or strains on the relationships we develop in our professional or personal lives.

To me, giving people the benefit of the doubt means that I don’t assume that people wake up every morning with the goal to ruin my day.  Now, I can easily see you thinking to yourself that I am over the top with this comment.  Maybe so, but if you look at each situation with that statement in mind, I believe it helps you stop before you might overreact and respond in a manner that will hurt your ability to build relationships.

Let’s dive further into this. How much does your speaking or written tone impact your ability to give people the benefit of the doubt?  Think about that last time you read an email where you felt the other person was being aggressive to you. When this happened, did you make the choice to respond with the tone of how you thought they were negatively communicating with you?  Many times, I see people making the decision to go on the offense, which leads to unnecessary frustration and strains on professional relationships.  What if you decided to give that same person the benefit of the doubt?  Before you react next time, take a deep breath and really consider whether or not you think that person intended to come across negatively. Before you respond, think about questions you could ask him/her that would help you understand more about what they are trying to communicate, instead of allowing emotions to drive your response.

Now, let’s take this same example and look at It from a different view.  In today’s busy world, we are constantly connected to our devices (smartphone, tablets, etc).  We communicate quickly through text and email.  This quick way of communication helps us be more effective in our daily jobs, but it can also contribute to communication challenges. How many times do you respond to an email on your phone with a one-word answer?  How many times do you respond to an email with a short phrase, without taking time to think about your tone?  I always challenge myself to address the person I am responding to with respect, and to make sure that I am cognizant of the message I am sending.  Doing this eliminates having to worry about giving people the benefit of the doubt, because I am staying consistent with a positive and professional way to communicate.  If I reverse the situation, when you read a one-word answer that you might perceive as negative, this is when you want to give that same person the benefit of the doubt.   In the end, you need to ask yourself “Is this really worth getting upset about”?

In my line of work, relationship building is everything to me. It is critical to my success with my internal and external customers.  Each relationship must be important, and you must treat each connection like it is your last.  You never know when you might need help from someone, so if you can challenge yourself to always give people the benefit of the doubt before you respond negatively, it will help you enjoy a richer life filled with positive energy and stronger relationships.  I realize that some of you might be thinking that this is common sense, but to many, it isn’t.

We all can work on giving each other the benefit of the doubt. 

If you have an example to share where you’ve given someone the benefit of the doubt and it generated a positive response, please leave a comment below.  If you’ve enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your network, and spread the word on always giving others the benefit of the doubt.

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