Knowing from Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time
Doing the Right Thing is a book about people who work in offices, why we fight, and how we can stop fighting, solve our problems, and get back to work. All materials on this site Copyright © Marianne Powers 2002. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    Next

Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time

Full Book Outline:

KNOWING
---People Are What They Are and It's Irrelevant Anyway
---We Don't Know What Other People Are Capable of Achieving
---People Are Not Accountable for Their Thoughts and Feelings
---We Don't Know What Other People are Thinking and Feeling
---People Are Accountable for Their Words and Actions
---Assume Everyone is Doing the Best They Can
---Assume Everyone Has a Good Reason for What They Say and Do

LISTENING
---Listen Very Carefully
---Welcome Information, Criticism is Information
---If You Have a Choice, Don't Choose to be Hurt
---Examine Your Motives
---Targeting Problems is Good, Targeting People is Evil
---If You Want Someone to Do Something for You, You Have to Be Completely on Their Side
---When People Don't Understand, Listen Better

SPEAKING
---State Your Position Clearly and Ask for What You Want Specifically
---Tell Them Even If You Know They Won't Understand
---All You Can Do is Tell Them, You Can't Make Anyone Do Anything
---When People Don't Meet Your Expectations, Change Your Expectations
---Give Them 100 Tries to Get It Right
---If They Can't Get It Right in 100 Tries, There Must Be Something Wrong with the Procedure
---Teach Everyone to Do Everything

Assume Everyone Has a Good Reason for What They Say and Do
If you had asked me, for most of my life, I would have said I have always had a good reason for everything I said and did. Sometimes, it was that it was the right thing to do and helped me accomplish one of my goals. I still consider that to be a good reason. Other times, you might have had to be a little more broadminded about what “good” meant. In the past, I have often done things because other people “made me mad” or “hurt my feelings” or “tricked” me into thinking it was OK. At the time, those were good reasons to me, too (although I don’t think they are now). Sometimes, I did things without even consciously thinking about why I was doing them. But, it never took me long to think up a “good” reason after the fact, if questioned.

It is interesting, then, that it was often my opinion that other people said or did things for bad reasons, or for no reason at all. Maybe I thought I was different from other people. Or, maybe, I was willing to believe that someone else might make excuses or hide their true motives but not that I would do those things.

As I slowly learned to recognize my own motives, I knew that I had not always had a good reason for everything I said and did. But when I realized that I had been fooling myself (and not many other people, most likely!), I tried to stop doing those things for which I didn’t have a good reason. I still wanted to have a good reason for everything I said and did, even though I thought differently about what constituted a “good” reason. At any point in time, though, no matter what I later thought about whether I was right or wrong, I have, at the time, thought I had a good reason for everything I said and did.

I believe now that most people are the same. They say and do things for what they consider to be good reasons, whether or not they seem like good reasons to anyone else. And, they are justified in what they say and do, at least in their own minds, at the time that they say and do them.

It has been important for me to believe that people have a good reason for what they say and do, even though I don’t know what it is, not just because it is true, but also because, otherwise, I have a tendency to blame anything other people do, that I don’t like, on some character flaw or intentionally bad behavior. When I believed the worst about people, I got mad at them or gave up on them as hopeless. Then they didn’t want to work with me any more than I wanted to work with them. Believing that everyone has a good reason for what they say and do allows me to approach them as reasonable people with a difference of opinion. I can possibly convince or be convinced by these people. We have a chance of coming to an agreement.

I started believing that people have good reasons for what they say and do because it worked, first with people I liked (which is not hard to do), then with people I didn’t know (giving them the benefit of the doubt), and then with people I didn’t necessarily like, because it gave me a way to talk to people when we had differences and come to an agreement. But, I am sure now that it is true, because people have always been able to give me good reasons for what they said and did, whenever I was willing to listen. Even when I thought that there could not possibly be an honorable explanation for someone’s “bad” behavior, I have invariably found that things look completely different from the other side.

You can’t do the right thing and accomplish all your goals by fighting with other people. You need other people. You need to talk to them the way you would want them to talk to you if they didn’t like what you were doing. You need to assume the best about them and make it easy for them to explain by understanding their point of view instead of thinking badly of them or getting mad at them.

People often say that someone else did something “for no reason”. Although I believe that everyone says or does things without giving it a lot of thought sometimes, I also believe that people do things for a reason most of the time, especially when they put emotion behind what they say or do. I think that sometimes this sense that it “comes out of nowhere” happens when people make you feel what they are feeling, a very interesting phenomenon. Sometimes it is inadvertent. An anxious person will make you feel anxious by some kind of osmosis. But sometimes people will set out to make you feel what they are feeling. If you insult them, they insult you, so that you can see how you like it. I’ve done that myself. However, I have never found it to work. The other person never has developed an instant empathy and stopped insulting me. They just get hurt and angry at what I said and insult me more.

Assume that everyone has a good reason for what they say and do, because they do. Assume that everyone has a good reason for what they say and do, because it is that assumption that will allow you to really listen to their point of view, negotiate with them, and reach an agreement. When it seems like people are doing things “for no reason”, check to see what you are doing that they might be reflecting back to you!



Next Section: Listening

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