Assume Positive Intent

Dear new developer,

I enjoyed this post from Rick Manelius (who also did a guest post a few months ago) about assuming positive intent. From the post:

Chris [a client] could have crushed me, and yet he didn’t. In fact, he did the exact opposite and taught me an incredibly valuable lesson. Amidst the bickering on one phone call, he asked his colleagues to stop this behavior and to assume positive intent instead. He went on to describe how this is a philosophy he’s adopted in his personal and professional life as a means of being more efficient, effective, and solution focused. After all, approaching any situation with the opposite mindset results in wasted time and energy. Assuming negative intent means you’re spending lots of time second guessing everyone’s motivations, being combative instead of collaborative, and slowing everything down by having to update contracts meticulously instead of going off of a handshake.

In general, assuming positive intent makes your life better at little to no cost. There are places where it isn’t appropriate (and Rick covers some of them). But having an operating assumption that everyone is trying to do the best they can is a good way to view the world. It’s a lot more fun. It leads you to partnership (rather than strife).

Sometimes I struggle with this. As developers, we spend a lot of time thinking about how things can go wrong. Sometimes I’m not as trusting as I should be. But when I’ve assumed positive intent, I am rarely wrong.

Sincerely,

Dan