Improve Your Life #9: Look for the Best in Bad Situations

Sunday 28th, April 2013 / 19:39Written by
Improve Your Life #9: Look for the Best in Bad Situations

When someone does or says something that frustrates and seems to be directed against us we tend to react. The reaction is often to start defending ourselves or retaliate with an attack of our own. I have seen this happen even to the most calm people I know.

I have had a lot of problems with this reaction. On one hand you could have misunderstood the situation and react aggressively to something that the other side meant as a positive interaction. On the other hand reflexive reaction to potentially aggressive behaviour may lead to escalation and serious consequences that may have been avoided if some consideration had entered the process. The third option is that the action was an accident, plain incompetence or stupidity.

When something doesn’t go as we expected we react by getting irritated or angry. To manage that I have come up with a process that helps me to keep the lid on long enough the process a little more data before reacting to the event. The key in this is to assume best in people.


If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will. ~~Abraham Lincoln

Step 1: When something happens, react by being surprised and interested. Focus and try to take in as many details as possible. This will give you a basis for later action.

Step 2: Assume positive intent. Whatever happens there’s usually a positive intent behind it from the offending side. People usually mean well and the bad things are communication errors and accidents. Judge others’ behaviour by the intention they had.

Step 3. Evaluate how to react and express your assumption of positive intent. Let the other side correct their mistakes and give them another chance to get it right.

By now enough time should have passed that the situation has defused. You can use this process to deal with all interactions form dealing with colleagues at the office to road rage accident that may have serious consequences.

And even if the other side was really a jerk and intended everything they did, cut them some slack. Try to understand their point of view( Maybe they were just fired, dumped, or they had to get to the airport in the next 3 minutes.

Step 4: Learn. If the offending person is someone important in your life find out what’s bothering them. Try to find ways to make their life easier. If the behaviour is starting to be a pattern you may want to rethink the whole relationship.

People are not usually bad, but there are circumstances, that make the best of us act like assholes.

Now practice the habit of reacting with interested surprise to all negative events and always assume positive intent by others.


Image: Surprise Bot by Jenn and Tony Bot
Image: Abraham Lincoln memorial by Gage Skidmore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *