In a podcast featuring Brene Brown, she spoke about the anatomy of trust and one of the parts that made up trust was generosity. She said this about it; “Generosity: Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions and behaviors; and then check in with me. So if I screw up, say something, forget something, you will make a generous assumption and say “yesterday was my mum’s one year anniversary of her death and it was really tough for me and I talked to you about it last month and I was really hoping you would have called. But I know you care about me. I know you think it’s a big deal so I want you to know I’ve been thinking about that.” As opposed to not returning calls, not returning emails and waiting for the moment where you can spring “Well you forgot to call…”
You can make a generous assumption about me and check it out.”
Shoo. This is grown up things! It made me think of my own relationships and whether or not there is enough generosity provided by both parties:
I once snapped at my friend’s spouse (let’s just say I was processing a couple of triggers at the time) and for months my friend’s conversations were a lot more general than normal. Until we had a conversation about the incident.
To put it into perspective, I’ve known this friend for many many many years. And while we’ve had disagreements we’ve always been able to resolve them quite soon after it happens. But this time required a lot more reflection and a lot more compassion; to my friend and myself. And it required a generous assumption on both our sides that our intentions were good. We could have both avoided it and eventually that would have affected our relationship in a negative way. The fact that we both believed in the other’s intentions made a massive difference and allowed there to be an openness and willingness to resolve the story.
I have another friend who over recent years, feels unable to be fully open with me and I know this because this friend started telling me half-truths or no truths; and for a long period of time I didn’t question it. I accepted that either I was being irrational or I ignored that gut feeling or I would question myself. When the truth was eventually revealed, I would question said friend on how this was different to what I had been told over the period, which would inevitably lead to an argument. At the end of it I would always wonder how I could do things differently so that my friend would feel comfortable enough to be honest with me from the beginning. I tried different strategies; asking directly, asking indirectly, not asking at all and just hoping the truth would arrive from the start, but all this did was create more questions within me than answers. Because regardless of the truth, what’s more important to me is the reason why there’s this inability to be open from the beginning. And this is the generous assumption; that my friend did not all of a sudden become malicious or intentionally cruel; the assumption being that there must be a specific feeling or reason for this change to be unable to be open.
In my response to these situations I find myself in, I am learning that the best way to be generous to those close to me is to be as authentic as possible and by this, I mean that I show up; as all of who I am; light and shadow. I bring all of me to the conversation in the hope that others will bring all of who they are because there’s the generous assumption of acceptance and trust. If we can be generous with our assumptions and generous with our authenticity then we will allow others to do the same and provide more room for genuine conversation and acceptance.
And when this happens; those moments of having a difficult conversation becomes just that much easier. Because what could be better than assuming the person you’re talking to is being as generous with you as you are with them?