I really wish I had thick skin. But when it comes to people and relationships I am pretty darn sensitive. Sometimes this is a gift. It allows me to be intuitive and empathetic. Often times, however, it is the source of a lot of anxiety. I can hardly stand someone being disappointed in me or (gasp!) not liking me.
I almost feel silly putting that in writing. It’s an area I am working on, though. Oftentimes when I am questioning a seemingly uncomfortable interaction with someone, my husband will remind me to “assume positive intent”. The concept is a game changer (not that it’s always easy to do).
Here’s what I figure: If I am unsure of what a person “meant” in a conversation, or their intent in a certain situation but I don’t have obvious evidence that there was ill will, then I should give them the benefit of the doubt until I have proof otherwise. I ask myself, “is my conscience clear? Do I have anything I need to take responsibility for or even apologize for?” If the answer is yes and no respectively, then I can rest easier about how the other person feels, while finding peace knowing I have done my best in that relationship.
Zooming out, I can’t help but wonder how our community and world would be different if we assumed positive intent first, giving others the benefit of the doubt. Everything does come out in the wash and we know that if there is ill will it will become obvious at some point. In the meantime, let’s spend less time assuming the worst and more time recognizing each other as fellow (imperfect) human beings who are trying to do life the best they know how. May there be room for grace, even in mistakes. And if you’re an intuitive, empathetic, thin-skinned soul like myself, may this little nugget bring you more peace and better sleep at night.