“I know how you feel.”
If there was ever a phrase or concept that had the best of intentions behind it but the worst track record for results- that would have to be it. Even if it’s said differently or just assumed entirely, the idea that we could ever know or understand another complex being’s train of thought or experienced emotions is incomprehensible. There are so many variables we could never be aware of and even biology/genetics at play that all determine how someone sees the world. You could be the same age from the same school in the same town and have attended the same clubs, played the same sports, and experienced the same loss, confusion, or overwhelm- and still not even have a clue how that person feels or what they’re thinking- much less why.
Perspective is everything.
If we ever hope to be able to have strong relationships, functional partnerships, or unified teams- we must let go of what we think we know and open our minds to the possibility that we may not know anything at all when it comes to someone else. That person who “ignored you when you called” may have been on the phone with a family member working through a crisis. The person who “discriminated against you and didn’t respond how you wanted them to” may be drowning in a sea of their own challenges and be unable to see your side of the story at the moment. The person who “attacked you” may have been hurt and trying to protect themselves. The person who “didn’t understand you or didn’t care” may have seen the greater good and was protecting you from harm based on the information you didn’t yet know. Whether it’s a parent with a small child, coach to a professional athlete, spouse to spouse, or teammate to teammate- we can never fully know or assume someone’s intentions- even if their behavior sends a message we believe is loud and clear.
Everyone has good intentions.
You cannot judge someone by their behavior because you never know the intention. Remember the old adage of the thief who stole food from a store…. to take home to his daughter so she wouldn’t starve? Good intention- (even if breaking the law) bad behavior. That mom who raised their voice at their child because they lied about their homework- is upset because they want their child to succeed in school. Good intention- (even if presented poorly) bad behavior. That leader who coldly demands the impossible or unreasonable from his team- because he knows that holding them accountable to their commitments and nudging them outside their comfort zone will bring out their full potential. Good intention- (even if lacking empathy and compassion) bad behavior. The next time you’re faced with a negative situation- I encourage you- break down your own intentions and then that of the other side- separate from behaviors. If fully honest and open, I believe you’ll find this rings true every time.
It’s time to let go of what we think we know for certain.
What we stopped seeing people and labeling them based on what we interpret from their behaviors? What if the only thing we assumed is not what we “know” based on what they did, but assumed they meant good things and may not have realized it appeared otherwise? What if we sought to fully understand their point of view first before making judgments? We might open the door to a whole new world.
A world of unity and collaboration.
A world of understanding and forgiveness.
A world of freedom.