In Brené Brown’s book “Rising Strong” she unfolds the anatomy of trust. Brown quotes Charles Feltman when she describes trust as “Choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” She breaks trust down into its key components, one of which is generosity. She explains how we are more likely to trust people who make generous assumptions about us and our intentions and how people are more likely to trust us if we do the same for them.
Though the anatomy of trust is a fascinating topic, it is the idea of generous assumptions that strikes the deepest chord with me.
Have you ever sent a text message to a friend and received no reply? Did you pay attention to your response to this situation? What were the thoughts that went through your head? Allow me to offer some possibilities: “She is deliberately ignoring me. What an asshole!”. This is not an example of a generous assumption about your friend. “She is obviously angry with me. I must have offended her in some way”. This is not a generous assumption about your friend, nor about yourself. It is disturbing how often we encounter responses either within ourselves or from others that are some version of the above examples. No doubt we have all encountered at one time or another people for whom this sort of victim position seems to be an almost default response to any words or actions that leave even the smallest room for misinterpretation. Their first assumption is that they are been deliberately attacked.
“I like when I don’t have to be careful about what I say. That’s when you know you’re with the right people” (This is a quote, I do not remember from whom, I recently saw on Facebook). It is almost impossible to establish or maintain a deep connection with someone when we find ourselves feeling anxious that our words and actions may be misinterpreted as an attack. Feeling like you have to walk on eggshells may be one of the most powerful obstacles to true connection.
A generous assumption would be more like “I know this is a busy time for my friend and I understand that I do not fall within her circle of close friends and family, and it is therefore okay that I do not receive an immediate response”.
I’m not suggestion that every such situation be dismissed with a generous assumption. Sometimes the words and actions of others are blatantly unkind, in which case it is appropriate to set boundaries and make those boundaries clear to others.
What I am suggesting is that a great deal of the time when we feel slighted by another, it was not intentional. Or even if it was intentional in that moment, it was just a lapse in judgement that occurred at a time of stress and not a true reflection of their feelings. It is also possible that In many cases what was said or done was benign in nature and the offence was entirely imagined.
My point is that when you are not sure, it is best to make a generous assumption. If you make this a habit it will bring a level of freedom and lightness and trust to your interactions with others that will open the doorway to deep and profound connection.
Making generous assumptions may begin as a practice, but in time it will become a way of being that more closely reflects who you really are, who you’ve always been. And the old wounds that stood between you and the gentle graciousness of your true nature will melt away.