Start by Assuming People Have Good Intentions
has dubbed its May 12, 2008 edition "The Best Advice Issue." I looked through the contributions
of some eighteen businesspeople + actress Tina Fey, and found myself most taken with what Indra Nooyi
, CEO of Pepsico
, had to say
My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From him I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you're angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don't get defensive. You don't scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, "Maybe they are saying something to me that I'm not hearing." So "assume positive intent" has been a huge piece of advice for me.
In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they're saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, "Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they're reacting because they're hurt, upset, confused, or they don't understand what it is I've asked them to do." If you react from a negative perspective because you didn't like the way they reacted then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, "Hey, wait a minute, maybe I'm wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort."
I would say these remarks are worth reading and rereading. If you're interested in an extended expression of Nooyi's thoughts on positive intent, you can read the commencement speech she delivered at the Columbia University Business School on May 15, 2005 here
Labels: Conflict management, Motivation, Negotiation, Persuasion, Respect