THE IMPORTANCE OF ASSUMING POSITIVE INTENT
Positive intent embraces the notion that people are making the best choices, with the best of hopes, with the best of their resources, to the best of their abilities. Essentially, instead of believing people are "out to get you," you give them the benefit of the doubt.
This is not "letting people off easy" or being naive; it's recognizing our human inability to know other people's true motives. This is hard work but important work for three key reasons:
1. Assuming positive intent allows us to reframe the conflict. Bernard Mayer says reframing is the ability "to maintain the conflict in all its richness but to help people look at it in a more open-minded and hopeful way." It's deeper than looking at conflict from a different perspective. It separates the person from the problem and focuses on the miscommunication or misunderstanding that needs to be address.
2. Assuming positive intent puts us in a position to consider that maybe the person is not "stupid, spiteful, evil" but has limited information, resources, or preoccupations which validated the actions or inaction s/he has taken. When knowledge and information is incomplete, behaviors may seem questionable to those with a fuller understanding
3. Positive intent recognizes we are imperfect people and to quote the truism, "Interculturalist are never perfect; they are forgiving." Assuming positive intent in others allows us to extend the same grace to ourselves when we make a mistake.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury
Communication Highwire: Leveraging the Power of Diverse Communication Styles by Dianne Hofner Saphiere, Barbara Kappler Mikk, and Basma Ibrahim Devries