Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Assume Best Intentions"

It's some of the best advice I've ever received, and it's only proved more and more helpful as I dealt with pregnancy, the placement decision and openness after placement.  

The advice comes with the assumption that most people don't intend to be mean.  Most people have good intentions, but their comments are often misinformed/misdirected/misplaced/etc.  In these situations, I always try to remember that advice.  It doesn't completely remove the sting of hurtful or insensitive comments, but it can help keep that comment (or action) from ruining a relationship.

So, how do you employ this piece of advice?

First, consider the source.  Is this someone who is typically nice? or have you had unpleasant run-ins with him or her before (or do you know others who have)?  If it's the latter, this advice isn't really beneficial.  Generally, if it's someone I don't know well, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

If it's someone you have a history with, remind yourself of times this person has been kind or supportive.  If it's someone new, you can simply remind yourself that most people are generally pretty decent and don't mean to go around offending people they just met.  Either way, these acknowledgements can help to calm you down.

Next, it's helpful to consider some possible motivations for the comment or action.  This practice will also help you figure out how to respond.  Is it a friend who is simply uneducated about adoption?  Is it a family member who is dealing with his or her own grief?  Is one of the adoptive parents exhausted from parenting a newborn, keeping a birthmom updated and handling ceaseless visits from family and friends?  You may not be able to pinpoint the exact motivation, but mentally putting yourself in their shoes can, again, help keep your frustration with the comment from turning into anger toward the person.  And, if you can pinpoint the probable motivation, you might just figure out the best way to address the comment.

When I assume someone is being purposefully hurtful, I react emotionally... then they get defensive... and everyone loses.  While there's way to undo the comment, using these techniques can minimize the damage the remark does to me and, sometimes, give me an opportunity to comfort or educate.

Have you learned any other techniques for handling hurtful comments?

1 comment:

  1. I really needed this today. I've had to deal with some unsupportive people and I am the sort of person who tends to assume the worst. Thanks for some great advice! :o)