Monday, February 9, 2015

Why I Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

I recently scheduled a meeting with a representative of a non-profit organization looking to hire my graduate students. We had confirmed the day and time via email several weeks earlier. When I arrived for the meeting, someone else from the organization greeted me. She indicated that my contact was traveling. As far as she was aware no meetings had been scheduled during his absence. 

While I was confident that my information on the time and date of the meeting was correct, I couldn’t be absolutely certain. I told this individual that I would check my email and follow up with my contact to reschedule. I didn’t assume her boss had erred. I didn’t cop an attitude about how my time was so valuable that I couldn’t such miscommunication. I didn’t assign blame for this snafu. I simply remained open to the possibility that I had been mistaken. That is, I gave my contact the benefit of the doubt. 

I returned to my office, checked my email, and confirmed that my understanding was correct and the meeting had been scheduled. I wrote to my contact to express how I missed seeing him and looked forward to rescheduling our meeting. That’s it. No harsh words, no scolding, no whining, and no complaining. 

He replied quickly to my email, apologizing for not letting me know in advance of our scheduled meeting that he had to leave town suddenly. 

The bottom line here is that I remained open, flexible, and positive, and allowed my contact to respond accordingly. The relationship can continue to grow stronger, and I anticipate there will be no fallout from this episode. 

I’ve discovered over the years that digging in my heels to affirm my interpretation of a situation is the correct one rarely leads to a positive outcome when someone offers a different, equally viable opinion. At the very least egos are bruised, and I expend a lot of energy that could better be applied to more productive pursuits. At worst, outright conflict occurs. Is it worth it to pursue my argument at any cost? I’ve concluded that in most cases it is not. I’ve thus learned to grant others the benefit of the doubt whenever possible and practical in myriad circumstances I encounter every day. I’d much rather be happy than right.

No comments: