Giving the Benefit of the Doubt - The Ultimate Act of Kindness?
Doing what’s right is not always easy.
And while we all want to see the best in people, it can be far easier to see the worst.
When a friend has let you down or a stranger has taken your seat in the movie theatre, it’s easy to jump to conclusions. We regularly let our preconceptions inform our actions. No one likes to be taken advantage of, and by assuming the worst we believe we are protecting ourselves.
What we are really doing is robbing ourselves of a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Perhaps that sounds like a big statement. A once in a lifetime opportunity? Really?
Yes. Everything you do has repercussions and will have an affect on your life. That is the rule of karma.
If you believe your own assumptions, you may find that that others begin assuming the worst of you. If you lose trust in your friend, your friend may lose trust in you. Or if you believe that the stranger took your seat on purpose, you may start an argument when instead you could have had an interesting conversation with a potential friend.
It takes a brave person to act against their own preconceptions about the world but that bravery could lead to a better outlook on like. Never trust people blindly, it can be easy to mistake blind faith in others for a good deed.
At GoodKarms, we believe it’s important to support each other in helping others. We have devised a list to help you figure out when you can give the benefit of the doubt and when you are being taken for a ride.
Let us know if you agree or have a different outlook on relationships. We love input and want to ensure that we can reach people in different situations and circumstances to help them to improve their karma and wellbeing.
So, what does it really mean to give someone the benefit of the doubt? Here are some rules to help you establish whether or not to have faith in another person.
Give the benefit of the doubt but don’t assume it’s exactly what you want.
When you are relying on another person, it’s easy to assume they will do the job the same way that you would do it. Everyone is different. As long as they are supporting you and not causing you extra trouble, worry or slowing you down, then does it really matter how they get there?
Don’t forget to be wary. If a friend has taken your words literally in order to allow themselves more time, perhaps you arranged to meet at around 5pm so they turned up at 6pm claiming that you had not specified that time. By taking your words literally, they have made life easier for themselves while making it harder for you. Don’t let others call the shots, agree on what you both want and ensure they stick to it.
Remember, we are programmed to believe the worst in people in order to protect ourselves.
It’s a simple survival instinct. If we imagine the worst that can happen then we are able to prepare ourselves for it. So by seeing the worst in another person, we have prepared ourselves to be let down. If you are judging the other person on their appearance or another entirely superficial trait, then take a second to remind yourself that it’s impossible to tell much about a person from the way they dress.
You need to give people a chance to show their true behaviour. If you have seen them treat others badly before then you have good reason to believe they could do the same to you. But if it’s a new friend or colleague you are relying on then give them a chance. They may surprise you.
Pay attention to their words and trust your gut.
Are they talking in circles? Are they ignoring what you’re saying? Are they using excuses for their bad behaviour? These are all signs that the person you are speaking too has either no intention or no ability to see their actions through in order to support you.
Tiny behaviours that you notice may tip you off to they kind of person they are and whether it’s worth trusting them.
Trust yourself even if they let you down.
Giving yourself a break and the benefit of the doubt once in awhile is necessary to your own well-being and can empower you to make great choices in the future. It’s important to remember that the actions of other people should not reflect on your feelings about yourself. By being brave enough to trust someone else you are making it easier for others to hurt you. When this happens you need to know that anything they have done wrong or simply not done for you is their problem. Not yours.
Ask yourself why they need the benefit of the doubt.
Have they let you down before or do you simply not like them? What’s causing you to question them? If it’s a concrete issue, for example they have a history of letting you or others around them down, then perhaps you are right to be careful. If it’s the way they dress or something else you simply don’t like then giving the benefit of the doubt could change your mind for the better.
Trusting others may help you understand people better.
You could learn who is likely to you down, and, more importantly, why. You could learn about people traits and behavior and what causes others to behave poorly. You may even stumble onto an opportunity to teach or support someone who wants to learn how to treat their friends and family better.
Put yourself in their shoes.
It’s rare that people are letting you down because they want to. Life does not work like that.
If someone has let you down then perhaps there is a deeper reason for it. Maybe a difficult home life, a characteristic that they learned in childhood and haven't grown out of, or a disorganised calendar is the cause of their behaviour now.
If you were in their position, what would you have done differently? Try offering some advice and allow some flexibility while they learn how to be a good friend.
We can create a self-fulfilling prophecy which we might recognize as a form of karma.
If you don’t trust someone then perhaps they decide not to trust themselves. Your preconceptions about the person could quickly become a reality. Don’t let what you believe about the person influence how you treat them or cause you to react too quickly to the situation. If you treat another person badly they are likely to treat you badly back. If you expect them to argue with you or to turn up to an appointment late, then the chances are that they will.
Remain polite and friendly, calmly explain the situation and be careful not to patronize them. Tell the person how you feel about the situation and see what they do or say next. There might be a really simple solution to the issue, all you have to do is ask!
Trusting others can be tough, especially when we are already assuming the worst. It’s always smart to be wary and rely on a new friend or colleague for small tasks before handing them anything important to you.
When someone else lets you down it can cause you to question everything and become even more cautious in the future. That is not necessarily a bad thing but it can completely depend on our priorities and situation and affect our emotional well-being. Learning to trust others can teach us who is a reliable friend and how to better trust ourselves.
If you never give people the benefit of the doubt then you are protecting yourself from disappointment and hurt, but you are also missing out on stronger relationships. Providing someone with the benefit of the doubt can help both of you and give your friend an opportunity to make it up to you in the future.
Don’t let your worries and assumptions cause you to miss out on a strong relationship. Learn to trust the right people and you will find contentment and happiness fills your life.