Create stories about people to believe the best about them

I’m a big fan of believing the best in people. Some people make this easy, and some make it more challenging. Believing that people are good and kind at heart allows me to give them the benefit of the doubt when it would be easy to assume the worst in them. Doing this helps me maintain a posture of kindness toward that person and keeps me from being too quick to judge someone else unfairly.

I have found that the best way to believe the best in people, when there is evidence to the contrary, is to create a story about them. Let me demonstrate what I mean.

During the recent College Football Championship game there was a moment when the camera panned across the crowd and caught an image of a mom and baby at the game. Shortly after, I saw social media blow up about this mom and among the accusations leveled at her were words like “moron” and “idiot.” But, was this mother a moron? She was at the game with a small child, but the child was in a carrier and was wearing ear protection to keep them from the noise. This mom was no moron.

So I wondered, what story can I create to help me understand where this young mom is coming from? Maybe her brother is the quarterback for one of the teams, and she couldn’t get a sitter but had to see her kid brother win the championship. Or, maybe she is married to someone on the coaching staff and brought out their child to support him during the biggest game he has ever coached. Maybe she is just a former student excited to see her team play, so she came to the game with precautions to protect her child. All of these scenarios are plausible, and none of them paint her as a moron like so many did on social media.

In this situation there are three types of people:

  • The accuser that is calling someone a moron.
  • The perceived idiot being called a moron.
  • The optimist that is choosing not to jump to conclusions, but concocts a scenario that makes sense and believes the best in the other person.

I try to be the optimist in situations like this, and I hope you do too.