Giving the Benefit of the Doubt
“Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood” is the fifth of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the all-time, best-selling, personal development books.
We often jump to conclusions and make assumptions with incomplete information. When we do that—when we fail to seek to understand someone else’s point of view, before seeking to be understood—we create problems in our relationships.
In his very interesting book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains how confirmation bias leads us to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. When information comes our way, we unconsciously begin a search for evidence to confirm that information.
That’s why the statement, “The odds of survival one month after surgery are 90%” is more reassuring than the equivalent statement, “Mortality within one month of surgery is 10%.” Similarly, cold cuts described as “90% fat free” are more attractive than when they are described as “10% fat”.
When it comes to relationships, for example, when asked, “Is Sam friendly?”, different instances of Sam’s behavior will come to mind than if you had been asked, “Is Sam unfriendly?”
For that reason, giving people the benefit of the doubt is a helpful strategy for positive relationships. And because positive relationships are one of the secrets to happiness, giving people the benefit of the doubt is a powerful habit to create, especially for people with whom you have a close relationship.
What are some examples of how you give people the benefit of the doubt, especially those closest to you? Please join the conversation with your comments…