Self Improvement 9: Find the Good in a Bad Situation

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interested surprise

If you want to have a sunnier outlook on life, look for the good in a bad situation.

Your mind is working with the material you focus on. So, feed it with the inputs that lead to positive outcomes.

Always look at the bright side of life.

How to internalize this process

There’s not much use for this approach if you only remember it after you have emotionally exploded. You can find the tools that help you build this habit in this article.

When someone does or says something to us, that frustrates or annoys 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 calmest people I know.

I have had a lot of problems with this reaction. On the 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 behavior may lead to escalation and serious consequences. You can avoid that when you consider what happened in the process. The third option is that the action was an accident, plain incompetence or stupidity.

When something doesn’t go as expected, we tend to 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.

Large part of bad happen because another person behaved in a way that you don’t like. This means you should practice forgiveness to see the good in the bad situations. Developing a more forgiving coping style may help minimize stress-related disorders journals.sagepub.com.

The unburdening effects of forgiveness:

Research shows that in the aftermath of conflict, forgiveness improves victims’ well-being and the victim–offender relationship. Unforgiveness is a burden that can be lightened by forgiveness; people induced to feel forgiveness perceive hills to be less steep and jump higher in an ostensible fitness test than people who are induced to feel unforgiveness. These findings suggest that forgiveness may lighten the physical burden of unforgiveness, providing evidence that forgiveness can help victims overcome the negative effects of conflict.

Abraham Lincoln quote

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

Step 1: Surprise and interest

When something happens, react by being surprised and interested. Slow down, focus and try to take in as many details as possible. The details will give you a basis for later action.

When someone says something mean of acts in a way that may not be the best behavior. You would be surprised that people can act in this way. The situation should peak your interest to understand why this happened.

The understanding helps you later work out a solution if you have to. Surprise and interest lead you to the next step.

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’ behavior by the intention they had. Judge your own actions by intent.

There’s aphorism Hanlon’s razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Of course, you don’t have to think that everybody is stupid. But Hanlon’s razor helps to understand that bad intentions are not behind most behavior.

Step 3: Ask questions to understand

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.

“Hmm, what do you mean by what you said/did?”

Do not criticize, do not pass judgment. There’s plenty of time to do that later. Your open questions may lead the other party to correct their actions. Then you simply let it go.

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 behavior is starting to be a pattern you may want to rethink the whole relationship.

Find ways to fix the situation. Learn to talk about the serious issues in your life.

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

When something really bad happens

Above I discussed the things that may seem bad at the moment. But what to do when something irreversible happens. An accident, illness, or death of a close person.

These events test your character, and each of us reacts differently. Try to be the rock people closest can lean on when needed. Help yourself and others by staying calm and composed.

And sometimes you just let it all get out. Find the people who you can lean on difficult times. The people are the good side in these situations. Build resilience and dependability to get through anything. These character traits will be the best thing you can have.

Back to medium grade every day bad things. Whatever happens, other people have had it worse and got through and flourished. Be curious, open, always assume the best intentions.

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

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