One of my favorite parenting principles is “assume positive intent” (Google it if you want to hang out with parents online for the next several hours).
It works like this:
When my oldest son is climbing on the countertops (kicking his brother in the face in the process) in order to reach something in the upper cabinets, I say, “I know you were trying to be self-reliant and not bother Mommy with what you needed, but it’s not acceptable to climb on the counters” instead of “What in the world were you thinking?”
The great thing is that sometimes, even when my positive assumption is totally baseless, it can still bring out the best in my kids.
I mean, they want to be the person that Mommy just assumed that they were, and, so, they aspire to live up to even my misguided assessment.
And it occurred to me, at some point during a conversation with an advocacy client last week, assuming positive intent is a place to begin in advocacy, too.
As you sit down with a legislator: “I am sure that you are concerned about rising incidence of hunger among children in your district.” (maybe not, really, but who wants to admit that?)
As you begin a new coalition: “We know that we are all here because of our shared commitment to reducing out-of-home placements of at-risk children.” (except the two organizations that are just there because it was a grant requirement, but that’s a place to start!)
As you approach your Board for buy-in to build an advocacy agenda: “Your passion for addressing health disparity brought you to this organization, and advocacy is another way that we can pursue that common goal.”
For me, as a parent, positive intent means that it’s not always important to be right.
Or to discover true motivations. Or prove a point. Or even gather information.
Sometimes I just want to minimize resistance and get what I want.
Sound familiar, advocates?