Last night I watched Toy Story 3 with my teenage kids – just don’t tell any of their friends!
We all loved it. Goodies, baddies, baddies that look like goodies and goodies that look like baddies. What’s not to love?
It’s a bit like that in life too. So how can you tell who are the goodies and who are the baddies? Of course it all depends on your perspective. Someone I see as a saint, you might think of as a demon.
Though there are some things I think we can all agree on, for instance that looks alone aren’t going to do it. Nor can we necessarily judge people by what they say.
Most of us would probably agree that behaviour is a better indicator. After all actions speak louder than words, don’t they?
Except that doesn’t always seem to work either, as a particular behaviour can be driven by any number of different intentions. And the intention may well be good even if the behaviour doesn’t appear so.
Like when my son was three and he drew me some ‘beautiful pictures’ in felt tip on my newly painted hall wall. He found it difficult to understand that his behaviour was anything less than perfect; he was judging himself by his intention, which had been angelic.
The problem is that we tend to give a knee jerk reaction to someone’s behaviour without stopping to think what their intention was. When we give them a negative reaction, they are likely to respond in kind. And so things deteriorate into conflict.
So maybe we should attempt to divine other people’s intentions before we decide if they are saint or sinner. The trouble is, that’s not easy either – the intention is not always obvious. Lot’s-O-Huggin Bear (you’ll have to watch the movie) had clearly got issues, though his intentions for himself were truly positive. He may even have thought that what he was doing was best for all the other toys, if only they realised it.
Trying to understand someone else’s intention is a really good starting point for conflict management. It takes some patience, a smidgen of self-control and an ability to step into their shoes. When we understand their intention, we can respond rather than react and the response is likely to be more appropriate. It’s also more likely to be in keeping with our personal brand and our core values.
I would go further. Even when someone’s intention cannot be construed in a positive light there may be something else going on and if we understood that, we might be more forgiving.
People quite often have really good intentions that they never get round to acting on. Or they may come to regret some past behaviour when they realize the impact, but they are too embarrassed to admit it or to apologise. I’m sure we’ve all got some skeletons in the wardrobe in that respect.
So perhaps we should refrain from judging people altogether and respond to seemingly negative behaviour with good grace.
For me the world could benefit from a little more grace. By that I mean that quality that responds with politeness when people are rude, that offers truth when greeted with lies and that meets anger with understanding.
Now there’s a thought.