Nobody is Perfect: Assume the Best

"Grace will take you places hustling can't"

~Brené Brown~

 

        One of the reasons I reference Brené Brown often is because I have noticed that she asks good questions. One of the questions I find most compelling is “Do you believe people are doing the best they can?” The answer to that will tell you a lot about yourself as a person—and as a leader. 

 

        This year, I forgot my mom’s birthday - and I didn’t remember for a full two days. Her birthday was on a Wednesday and I woke up on Friday morning remembering it. I have no excuse. I simply forgot. There wasn’t anything extraordinary happening that day. In fact, I talked to her on the phone that morning like I do most mornings. 

 

        On the surface it seems silly and even a little embarrassing: I specifically teach people how to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Nevertheless, something that is super important to me fell through the cracks. Why? 

 

        Well, it was an event that I never thought I would forget. Since it is something so important to me, I didn’t think there was a need to put it in my calendar or to set a reminder on my phone. The problem with that thinking is that we are all fallible. We all make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are necessary for learning. So, what did I learn? That even if I don’t think I need a reminder, it never hurts to have a safety net. 

 

        From my Mom’s point of view: She could have decided that because I forgot to say “Happy Birthday” when I talked to her that morning that I didn’t care, never thought about her, didn’t love her, etc. Thankfully, I know from past experiences with her that she would never think that—and we both know that I love her very much and think of her often. All of the other times I’ve called and reached out show that clearly.

 

        When someone makes a mistake, it can be easy to jump to conclusions about intent, and to assume the worst. Brené Brown says that we develop trust by giving people the benefit of the doubt. Going back to the important question, “Do you believe people are doing the best they can?” What if you decided that you were going to believe that as a default, until proven otherwise? How would that change the way you view people being late, making mistakes, or saying something off-putting? Don’t you want someone to give you that same grace, and believe that you have good intentions, even if things get muddled or messed up in practice? I sure do. And if we want to build strong relationships and be good leaders, we must practice assuming the best. 

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