The Powerful 3-Word Phrase That Makes Me a Better Person

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Real-talk time: I have not loved 2015. If there was one word to sum up my experience of this year, it would be “relentless.” A lot of good stuff has happened, alongside a lot of challenging and not-so-good stuff. One thing I will be taking forward from this year, though, is a special 3-word phrase I picked up from Tara Swiger. This phrase has helped me show up with more patience and compassion (and generally be a better person) many a time over the past 12 months, and it's something I plan to continue.That phrase?

“Assume the best.”

I’ve used this phrase when someone has done something that leaves my inner social justice warrior ranting and raving. I’ve used it when someone has done something mind-bogglingly violating. I’ve used it when I’ve encountered those all-too-easy-to-escalate misunderstandings. I’ve used it with certain people who have behaved with less-than-OK integrity. I've also used it to negotiate periods of deep self-judgement.Important note: Assuming the best is not the same as pretending something hasn't happened. It’s not gratitude through gritted teeth. We can assume the best and still acknowledge that we don't accept certain behaviours. Rather, it's about being as generous as we can with our interpretations about why someone behaved in a certain way.

One of the most helpful things about assuming the best is that it defuses potentially high-drama situations. It’s all too easy to take that unanswered email, that friend who forgot our birthday, or that tone of voice, and make it all about us.They must not have answered that email because they don’t like me.She must have forgotten my birthday because she doesn’t care as much as I do.They must have spoken to me like that because I did something wrong…We’re wired to look for potential threats and negative happenings in life. Historically, this mindset has helped us survive. Emotionally, it can lead us to have a victim mentality and be just a teensy bit self-involved.[Tweet "Add this 3-word phrase to your toolbox for more patience and compassion."]Assuming the best helps us step out of the “mememe” frame of mind and look at the other alternatives. For instance, the person who didn’t answer your email might have received 300 other emails that day before yours. The friend who forgot your birthday might have been dealing with a sudden work crisis and left the office drained and empty at 10pm. The person who used that tone of voice might have eaten a dodgy prawn sandwich for lunch.Assuming the best doesn’t excuse icky behaviour. Nor is it a license for people to treat us poorly; I believe healthy boundaries is the ultimate form of kindness, to ourselves and others.Instead, assuming the best is as much for our own benefit as it is for the other person’s. It’s a chance for us to say no to the drama. It's a chance  to practice compassion with everyone (including ourselves). It's a chance  to extend an olive branch in our most important relationships. It's a chance to be a better person in our daily dealings with other people. And, whatever the situation, it's a chance to wish other people well on their journey as we move forward with ours.Do you have any phrases or internal mantras that help you show up as a better person? Share them below, and let's all be more patient and compassionate together!Further reading: How to complain effectively (& actually change something) & let's all stop apologising for these things.Image: Jonas Vincent