I have always prided myself on being able to learn from anyone – and everyone – I work with. Like many things, learning from people is a skill and as such it is something that I have become better at with practice. The key for me is to listen carefully (to what people say), to think deeply (about what they say) and to observe accurately (what they do).
Anything anyone says to us is based on their experiences, insights and knowledge. And as such it will be worth listening to. It may or may not be right. It may or may not be the same as our own thoughts. Nevertheless, my starting assumption is that it is always worth listening to. But although listening is essential…it is not enough. Thinking and considering what has been said, what it means, why it was said and how it influences what I was thinking – or what I was about to do – has to follow. This is where I find the real value.
I once asked my best friend at work how she managed to achieve so much, to help so many and to be so relaxed. She paused. She thought. She smiled. “I trust intent.”
I listened carefully. But then I realised that she had finished. That was her answer. Trust intent. There was no more. It was now down to me to think deeply. I immediately realised that I needed help or needed more. “In what way?” Was the best I could come up with. She smiled again. “I trust intent.”
This was some four or five years ago. And I have been thinking deeply about this answer ever since. It sounds so simple. It clearly worked for my best friend at work. But what did it really mean? How could I learn and apply.
I realise there is always intent behind what any of us do or say. And that resultant impact (on us or others) may not always be the same as desired intent. And I also know that we all invest much time and effort in building trust – normally the trust of others in us – either explicitly or implicitly. But what does it mean when the two words are brought together?
Well, last week – during one of many work based conversations – I realised that I may have worked out what it means to ‘trust intent’. Or rather I have a theory – a theory in two parts. The first was simple – that I was looking for too deep a meaning. And secondly – that in any situation, or in any conversation, we should always ‘trust’ the ‘intent’ of others to be positive and well meaning.
I also realised that – like many simple concepts – it is harder to apply this philosophy than it is to say. But I am sure that if we operate in this way then not only would our lives be simpler, but also we would have chance to emulate my best friend at work.
To be able to ‘trust intent’ of someone else’s words or actions is a personal decision. It is independent of the impact (positive, negative or neutral) on us of that person’s words or action. It is unemotional. It is unconditional.
Every day, hour or even minute, someone says something to me, asks for something from me, or does something that impacts me. And if I ‘trust intent’ for all of these words or actions then my life is most definitely simpler. I learn far more than I ever dreamed possible. I am able to do more.
And I feel good.