Monday, April 15, 2013

How giving people the benefit of the doubt can change your life

In most scenarios, I feel fairly comfortable as a mother.

There are many things I was taught as from my upbringing and my parents' influence as well as a few things I've learned along the way that factor into my comfort level.  One of the biggest reasons I feel happy with my style of mothering is how I'm typically able to keep my cool and maintain patience.  For whatever reason, I'm able to always see the entire situation and I try to give my children the benefit of the doubt.

At this stage- there are often many reasons and factors that add in to any change in temperament with both little man in his toddler stage and little lady in her baby stage.  Level of fatigue, hunger, stomach irritability, teething, and many other things factor in to how our babes are feeling, thinking, and reacting.  One way I maintain patience even when I'm frustrated about their actions is to remember that there are probably one or more factors leading to their behaviors, and then I try to give them the benefit of the doubt when possible.

One example of this is a recent day when little man and I went out on his bike in our neighborhood.  When we got out to the end of the quiet street up to a main road near our home, little man didn't understand that we needed to stop and turn around.  For his young mind, all he saw was more road.  He doesn't yet understand the danger of the larger street, and he had a hard time recognizing why we couldn't keep going.  In that situation, if I looked at it as his brain didn't understand the constraints and safety just yet, it really helped me keep my wits about me when he had an epic meltdown at the end of our street in front of several of our neighbors.  By giving him the understanding of why he was acting like he was, I was able to be a calmer parent and more patient with his needs.

After coming to a realization that this tactic is a major help in being a better parent, I then made a second realization:

I don't give out the benefit of the doubt nearly enough in my other relationships.

Sure, adults are able to think more clearly, and therefore my interactions with my husband, my family, and my friends don't require as much analytical thought, but I don't give others credit anywhere near as often as I should.  And it made me think about those every day occurrences of which I can be just a bit more forgiving.

When my husband returns home from work each day, he's tired.  He typically has been up really early to go in early to work or to exercise before he goes to work.  He spends the whole day supporting our family, so if he doesn't always put his dishes into the dishwasher at night, it's okay.  There are many, many different ways in which he picks up the slack for me in our relationship, and it's okay for me to pick up the slack for him in other ways.  It's part of being a healthy couple.

The same scenario goes for many of my interactions with my family and friends.  There are a lot of situations where I'm prone to react first and think later, and that needs to be reversed.  If I can just sit back and think about why people are doing things, saying things, and acting the way that they are, I can understand more fully where they're coming from and how I can proceed more appropriately.

Since I began to give the benefit of the doubt to everyone and not only my children, life has become so much easier, happier, and more fulfilling.  Honestly.

Instead of trying to justify why people were doing things that frustrated me or hurt me, I began to see that their intents weren't always what I had expected or interpreted them to be.  Now, I'm not talking about being a pushover or a human carpet here, but I'm talking about treating people a little more respectfully by walking a mile (or even just a few steps!) in their shoes before reacting.

Think this sounds silly?  Try it.  

For one day, just try stepping back and giving people the benefit of the doubt, all day long.

It may just change your life.

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  1. So well written and so true, Jayne! I am a pretty patient person, overall...but with semi-sleepless nights with the baby, I don't give my 3 year old all the patience and compassion that he deserves...but he's also entering the super whiney, not-listening-because-it's-a-fun-game phase and it's just really trying right now!

    One of my lessons of giving someone the benefit of the doubt is our carpenter. He started to finish our basement last June, promised he'd be done fast with "lots of time before your baby is born" and he finished ONE room the week before Ethan was born (early!). I could've been the biggest bitch on the planet to him, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and when he was finally done...he said he'd do the mudding & sanding in our theatre room for free! Our kindness and patience paid off.

  2. Love this :)

    I try to keep this same tactic in mind with everyone in my life, especially my immediate family. I think it's important to be able to empathize with others, understand where they're coming from. Something else that's always helpful with my husband that's kind of related, is to remember he's not a mind reader. I can't get angry about things that I WANT him to anticipate or naturally understand. I have to let him know what I'm thinking!


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