Monday, September 10, 2012

Assume Good Will

Talk about a case of the Mondays. Terry and I both slept terribly last night. Was it the heat? Was it the cat crying for NO reason at 3 am? Was it the excitement of a new week dawning? Whatever it was, we both woke up dragging and snoozed our alarms as late as possible.

This little punk kept right on sleepin...

My day improved from there, as I got to spend the day in a teacher retreat for newbies at my school. We all got subs for our classes and spent the school day reading and discussing articles, getting to know each other and our administrators better, learning more about the organization of the school, and discussing our roles on campus. It was an extremely productive and enlightening day, and I feel much more prepared to take on the school year. I'm especially grateful for the opportunity to know my fellow new-to-the-school teachers; we have formed a nice bond that I'm sure will continue to grow.


(Note: The website above has best friend quotes, including, "Best friends are the bacon bits in the salad bowl of life.")

Anyway, as our principal described the structure of our school staff and explained some of the nuances of our community, he threw out a piece of advice that really resonated with me: "Assume good will." What a simple thought, right? And yet how often do I find myself wondering if someone might have a less-than-honorable intention?

The thing is, practicing this theory would significantly improve any kind of teamwork, from professional settings to chatting with friends to marriage. If we always assume that the other person meant no harm, imagine how that would change the dynamic of the team or partnership. Instead of wasting energy wondering whether that e-mail was sarcastic or furrowing my brow about whether someone was trying to take credit for my idea, we could just skip to the good stuff. The stuff that matters, like accomplishing our task (in the case of a work team) or hearing about each other's day (in the case of friendship or marriage).


Of course, as I thought about this post, I also tried to think of counterpoints--what if someone's comment really seems out of line or inappropriate? What if someone is blatantly lying? What if they clearly did not intend good will?

Well, I haven't yet encountered these situations, seeing as this phrase only struck me as life-changing today, but here's my plan: Assume good will anyway. Someone makes a sarcastic comment that hurts my feelings? I will take a deep breath and assume they didn't mean it that way. Someone doesn't tell the truth and makes me look bad? I will do my best to correct the mistake if it's important and then assume it was, in fact, a mistake. Someone clearly means to slam me with their words? I will assume I misinterpreted their message.

Yes, I will seem naive. But I think it's better than the alternative, right? I would rather mistake someone for being too nice than for being too mean. I would rather wrongly accuse someone of being kind than wrongly accuse him or her of being a jerk. And I would hope others would do the same for me. I have a gift of sarcasm (from my dear father), and I never mean it to harm anyone (though, to be honest, I don't mind throwing a few sarcastic jabs at companies who use marketing to fool people into thinking that unhealthy products are "natural" or "healthy" when they most certainly are not). So if I make a sarcastic comment that rubs someone the wrong way, I would hope he or she would be willing to assume I mean no harm.

It's going to take work for me to put this idea into practice. I'm sure I'll catch myself getting irked by something Terry says, for example. But by assuming he means good will (and he always, always does--that guy is seriously the best), I will eliminate any chance of getting upset.

Alright, so that's my most recent healthy goal. Removing negative assumptions from my life could help reduce my stress and help me focus on what's important--doing my job to the best of my ability, staying in touch with friends and family, keeping my marriage strong.

Speaking of keeping our marriage strong, I made a kickass Greek salad tonight. It had all the usual ingredients, but I put the feta, onion, and tomato mixture in little cucumber boats! So fun.

We also munched on homemade pita chips and farmers' market hummus. Deeeeelicious!

Hoping for a better night's sleep tonight and a wonderful Tuesday for you!

What do you think of assuming good will? Do you have any team building advice that has helped you?


  1. In theory, I think assuming good will is great! When I first started with my company a few years ago, that's how I rolled. Unfortunately, I have been burned by that so many times, it's hard to believe that people actually mean well anymore.

    I think in marriage, it probably works better, since when it comes down to it, you still love each other.

  2. I love your intentions with this, I think I tend to pre judge situations and actions which can lead me into a black hole. I go in negative rather than open. I know I try and make a conscious effort to really go in without judgement.

  3. i really liked this post, julie!! i am so guilty of jumping to the negative conclusion so quickly. it would certainly make a lot of situations more pleasant to assume the good!