Benefit of the Doubt
A habit that all Relaxed Leaders should learn
As Relaxed Leaders, we need to do things differently then the everyday leaders we see out there – even many of the most successful ones – because the means by which we succeed are truly important. In fact, those means will lay the groundwork for us to multiply our success in the future.
“Okay - what do you suggest?”
One of the extremely important things I suggest Relaxed Leaders learn how to do is more freely give others the benefit of the doubt. It sounds like such a simple thing to do but it doesn’t feel natural for most of us, except under certain circumstances. Once we know, like, and trust someone, then we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But until we know them, we’re leery and cautious (or we just assume the worst).
A lot of our natural tendency is driven by our personal experience. If we’ve been burned before, then we’re much more cautious about trusting people going forward. The trouble is, most of those people we distrust did nothing wrong. They’re paying the price for something someone else did to us in the past. That’s not fair, it’s not helpful, and it’s not what a Relaxed Leader should be doing.
Giving someone “the benefit of the doubt” is giving them a gift because you’re basically starting by assuming the best. If something is said or done that isn’t exactly what you wanted or expected, you don’t assume the worst. You don’t assume malicious intent. You don’t assume the person is angry or trying to be mean. You aren’t sure of their motive and intent – there is doubt – but you give them “the benefit of the doubt” by assuming the best.
If something can be interpreted different ways, you choose the best interpretation. Even if someone is actually rude or mean, you give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming something is going on that’s stressing them out. You assume they’re having a bad day or struggling with something else... and you assume they didn’t mean to take it out on you.
“Why is it important to give the benefit of the doubt?”
Relaxed Leaders have to not only live our values, we also have to treat others the way we want and need to be treated. In order to make tremendous, positive change in the world, we need to do so hand-in-hand with everyone we can convince to join us. We need them to trust us and our vision for the future so we can build it together. We want them to trust us because change can be scary – but if they have confidence in us, then we can overcome the fear and make significant improvements for our world.
If we expect people to trust us, then we need to start by trusting them. And one fundamental way we express trust is by giving someone the benefit of the doubt. We trust that their motives and intent are positive. We trust they mean well, even when they do something questionable. And when they apologize for something, we assume they are sincere... and we forgive them.
When we do all of that, most people are likely to reciprocate. But in addition to interpreting what we say or do in a positive way, they’ll also be more likely to believe us when we tell them about the reason for changes we’re trying to make. They won’t assume we’re trying to convince them to do something “for their own good” when it actually only benefits us. They won’t assume we’re trying to gain power and influence to enrich ourselves. They’ll believe us when we say we’re trying to be leaders in order to make positive change in the world.
The bottom line:
Giving others the benefit of the doubt is simple but not easy. Depending upon what you’ve experienced in your life, offering that level of trust to someone who hasn’t “earned it” could be extremely difficult. Even so, I encourage you to try.
“The benefit of the doubt” is a gift that can help create the foundation we need in order to build a movement for positive change. And it’s a gift that people will start giving us in return... if we make the first move.