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Transforming Communication: The power of presuming positive intent

Sharing actionable tips from my agency, enterprise, start up, and life experience with a design and developer twist.

Today I am going to talk about one principal has stood out to me as being a cornerstone for leaders I have looked up to, has gotten me to diffuse tense situations and forge stronger relationships. This simple yet profound shift in mindset can bring about transformative changes both in your professional and personal lives.

Presuming positive intent means attributing a positive, rather than negative, motive behind other people's words or actions. It means giving them the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions. It is about fostering an environment where trust and cooperation thrive over suspicion and discord.

The impact of presuming negative intent in any communication can be detrimental. It breeds distrust, creates stress, hampers collaboration, and often leads to a toxic work or family environment. On the other hand, by presuming positive intent, we open doors to greater understanding, empathy, and cooperation. Not only does it lead to healthy professional relationships, but it also impacts personal interactions positively, leading to more fulfilling relationships.

So why do most of us often fall into the trap of presuming negative intent? The answer lies in our cognitive biases and defensive communication habits. We tend to interpret situations based on our past experiences or preconceived notions, which may not always be accurate. Additionally, in a bid to protect ourselves from potential harm, we might adopt a defensive stance, presuming negative intent in others' actions or words.

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Presuming positive intent will get you further in life.

Adopting a mindset of presuming positive intent is not an overnight process. It requires conscious effort and practice. Here are some practical ways to make this shift:


Recognize your own biases and defensive habits. Understand that they might not always represent the reality.


Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Try to understand their perspective before forming judgments.

Open Communication

Encourage open discussions and ask for clarifications when in doubt. Don't hesitate to express your concerns in a respectful manner.


Like any new skill, mastering positive intention requires practice. Start with small steps and gradually incorporate it into all your interactions.

Coming from the UX community, we talk about having empathy for our users and their needs. We see our users’ struggles, and we’re their champions. If we assume positive intent for our team, we’re applying that same empathy.

Presuming positive intent is more than just a communication strategy; it's a lifestyle choice. To be clear, I am not saying everybody is out to help you. There are people who do want to do harm others, and we should be cognizant of that. However, presuming positive intentions fosters a culture of trust, collaboration, and mutual respect, which are the cornerstones of successful personal and professional relationships. So, let's embark on this journey of transformation and witness the power of positive intention in action.

That's it for today! See you online!


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