RSS Feed for This PostCurrent Article

Does Motive Matter When Someone Offends You?

People in ConversationOkay, here’s one of my top 10 tips for life: The next time someone says or does something wrong or offensive, don’t start labeling their motives. Ascribing motive to a person’s inappropriate behavior is seldom an exercise worth your time…and often leads to more problems. For example, telling your spouse that he always leaves a mess because he knows you will pick up after him, is just begging for an argument. Ask yourself, does it really matter WHY he doesn’t clean up? No. You simply want him to change his behavior, the motive is not really important.

Oscar Wilde said, “Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance.” It is much better to assume the person didn’t know better and simply needs to correct their actions. This remove personalities from the equation and reduce the chance for debate. The discussion can now focus on the person’s behavior, and not your interpretation of their thoughts and motives. But when you label a person’s intentions, you’ve started down a much more personal path.

Taking this approach will also do wonders for your own state of mind. I have done this with a close friend who is lacking in social skills. She occasionally says things that are hurtful or offensive without considering the feelings of the other person. It would be easy to assume she is deliberately hateful, but I choose to see things differently. I assume she is simply unskilled in the art of human relationships. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not suggesting that you ignore or tolerate the distasteful behaviors of others. I am only recommending a different tact for addressing those offenses.

This practice has broader application to situations beyond your friends and family. What is your response when someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you label them a jerk who deliberately drives as if the road is their own? Have you ever cut someone off unintentionally? Let’s just assume they are an inattentive driver. It’s not an excuse, but it eliminates the feeling that their behavior was deliberate and personally offensive. And how do you react when someone makes a prejudiced comment about another person due to race or religion? Instead of labeling the person a racist or bigot, consider them ignorant.

Consider my own situation when I started a new job years ago. I was working with several individuals who had developmental disabilities, but was using words like “handicapped person” when speaking of their disability. My coworkers could have assumed I cared more about the disability than the individual, but instead they considered me ignorant. They took to time to explain why such terms add to misunderstandings about persons with disabilities and introduced me to “People First” language (PDF).

So it’s time to give this a try. For two weeks, stop labeling the intentions of the person and only consider the appropriateness of the behavior. See if this doesn’t give you a bit more hope in others and reduce the conflicts you encounter. Make a effort to follow this principle and see what a difference it makes.

[PhotoCredit:B_D_Solis ]

Trackback URL

RSS Feed for This PostPost a Comment

Free Shipping in the USA, $2.97 Shipping worldwide
Order Flowers Online

One Decision Can Change Your Life Forever