Assume Good Intent

Last week, I was texting a friend of mine for probably the thousandth time. We’ve been spending the last several months relearning each other, establishing new friendship behaviors, creating more awareness in the hopes of allowing for more connection.

Last week I texted him to check in. He never responded to something I had sent a few days earlier.

A year ago, this would have infuriated me. I would have thought he was being heartless and cruel. He must know, after all, how horrible I feel when someone ignores my text: unloved, abandoned, unimportant.

About six months ago, it dawned in me he didn’t actually know. He doesn’t feel the same way about unanswered texts. And since I had never told him how they make me feel (I just got mad and annoyed at him instead), he had no idea.

Now, we’ve fallen into a pattern. I know his not answering is not out of spite or anger, he’s usually focused on something else and just forgets. I try to give him the space and time to get back to me when he can both for my sake (I don’t enjoy feeling like the nag) and for his (he doesn’t enjoy being nagged).

He now knows how shitty I can sometimes feel when he doesn’t get back to me. He now tries his best to get back to me as soon as he sees my text.

Sometimes he can’t or doesn’t. When this happens, he now apologizes – acknowledging me in this way makes me feel more heard and seen.

On the flip side of this coin, I sometimes can’t give him that time and space. Now, when I catch myself ruminating or stressing over an unanswered text (and I can’t get myself out of it with self-compassion and loving-kindness), I will sometimes check in, telling him how I have been feeling and making sure he’s alright.

Last week I texted him a song and he never got back to me. A few days later I checked in. After apologizing and telling me his circumstances, he told me he knew I’d love that song because I love “Eleanor Rigsby.”

As soon as I read the text, a smile spread across my face and a warmth spread through my body.

Thanks to the many factors that make me me, I tend to believe that people don’t love or care about me very much. It’s one of those things I know (logically) isn’t true, but I feel immensely certain about.

This was one of those unprompted acts that reminds me that I’m wrong.

I could have missed this text. I could have missed this wonderful feeling. I probably would have, had I been so busy being mad and upset with my friend that I wouldn’t have texted him to check in. Or if I had been so mad and upset that I would have sent him something passive aggressive, instead of something kind and honest.

Sometimes we are so busy with ourselves, so busy taking things personally, and so busy feeling hurt, that we lose sight of what makes people wonderful.

We could be stuck feeling upset at a friend for not texting us back promptly, that we lose sight of his kind nature and his remembering the smallest, most heart-warming details.

We could be focused on feeling frustrated by a friend who’s never on time, that we forget all the times she was there to hear us cry, empathize with us, and help us feel a little less broken.

It is so easy to assume people are out to get us. To assume that the car mechanic knew how inconvenient it would be for me to not have a car for a weekend and purposely allowed me to schedule my appointment for Friday anyway. To assume that my friends are all (even the ones that don’t know each other) conspiring to not text me back on the same day so I feel extra shitty.

But what if we challenge ourselves to assume the best intentions instead? How quickly could that turn around our day?

So next time you catch yourself assuming the worst, be kind to yourself, be self-compassionate and warm, and then, if you have it in you, try assuming the best instead. See how it makes you feel.

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