Positive Intent And Trust Go Hand In Hand
This post originally appeared on the FCR blog on February 5, 2016. Click here to read the original.
A couple months ago, the unthinkable happened. I broke rule number eleven on my list of 11 Unwritten Rules Of Customer Service. I was late for a meeting with a client— and I’m not talking about a few minutes late. I was twenty minutes late. After etching that commandment in stone on a blog post, I turned around and broke it.
I could sit here and give you a bunch of excuses but there really are none – and furthermore, that’s not the reason for this post. As I look back on that experience a couple months later, there are a couple things that really stand out to me.
Assuming positive intent
One of the values we teach our leadership at FCR is to assume positive intent in others. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People terms this seeking to understand before being understood.Whatever you like to call it, by assuming the best in others regardless of the situation, we put ourselves in the best frame of mind to hear why the seemingly unthinkable happened.
More times than not, it ends up being a misunderstanding and a non-issue after effective communication occurs. In the event that someone did screw up, not only are we in a better position to forgive and coach, but they avoid a defensive position and are in the best possible place to admit fault, show contrition, and be coached.
In the case of my infraction, my colleagues displayed this beautifully. When I arrived at the meeting I was asked, “Are you ok?”, and, “Were you caught up in the crazy rain out there?”, and other questions that assumed something out of my control had caused me to be late. At that point I thanked them for their concern and admitted that it was none of those things. Actually, I think I made some stupid, self-deprecating joke that no one thought was funny. The fact of the matter is that I had screwed up.
That leads me to my second insight around this encounter which is trust. Stephen Covey has another great concept called the Emotional Bank Account. The basic concept is that we make regular deposits and build up some equity with other people. Trust works a lot like this. In my case, being consistently on time (5 minutes early) to meetings makes a deposit into that account where my colleagues trust that I will be there on time. Showing up late without any notice was a huge withdrawal from this account.
In the aftermath of this experience, I apologized to all of the people I affected and assured them it wouldn’t happen again. They responded with something along the lines of “It’s OK. I trust that this won’t happen again.” In that moment, they’ve chosen to continue to trust me.
Bringing these two things together, positive intent and trust always go hand in hand. Positive intent puts us in the best possible position to work with others and keep that bond of trust strong. Don’t forget be grateful to those who assume positive intent about you and realize the incredible and the beautiful bond of trust that accompanies it. Value and cherish that trust and work to never, ever take advantage of the gift that it is.