Friday, August 04, 2006


"Be kind - Remember every one you meet is fighting a battle - everybody's lonesome."

Marion Parker

How often we imagine things about people? For example, you send an e-mail to a long lost friend. You are certain that he/she  received your e-mail. But, you get no reply in reasonable time. It's quite natural for us to think negatively about our friend. If we are sure that the person deliberately ignored us,  such a thought may be justified although for just a moment.

But, many times, we can take a step  in the right direction and give full benefit of doubt to the other party. One way to avoid thinking negatively about people when they seem to act out of normal is to become their best defender. We can
say to ourselves that our friend may be out of station or may be some family problems or does not have access to the computer or our mail may have been filtered out by junk mail filter. By the way, the last possibility is way too common if you put seemingly innocuous plain 'Hello', 'Hi' as the subject line.

I think Steven Covey's famous book 'Seven habits of highly successful people' starts with one such example. Covey talks about an incident in which he was inconvenienced by a bunch of young boys on  local train. Covey felt angry at their father who was very much there but did not do anything to rein in the kids. Covey asked the father why he was not doing anything. The story father told was heart wrenching and changed Covery's attitude for ever. This guy's wife had just died in the hospital. You can imagine the plight of a man whose wife has died and has responsibly for so many kids. Covey says this was his clear understanding of often used term 'paradigm shift'

Many times similar situation will be going on with people who we think are arrogant or cranky or rude or discourteous. Even if somebody did it on purpose, it is still possible to feel compassion for them as people who on purpose act nasty are crying within for help, love, understanding.  Their poor behavior is their last refuge and last try to say in a clear and loud manner that they need help. We can choose to help such people. If we do not feel angry about someone with a head ache or stomach ache, why feel angry about someone with 'mind ache'? This was one of the things Buddha said. As we give
some medication to people with aches in physical body, we should be able to provide similar medication to people with 'mind aches'. In this case, patience, love, understanding are the medication. No one illustrates such a thing better than the people in a nice family. When one member is going thru some problem and is being nasty to other members, for outsiders it may seem that rest of the family is putting up with such a person for no good reason. But, the family knows better than anyone that it is in forgiving others that we are forgiven.

Point is to give every benefit of doubt to the other party. Even if you have to ask someone why they acted in a certain way or why they ignored you, it helps to ask them in a way that would help them bail out without losing face. For example, if someone never replied to your e-mail, asking them if they could not reply because they had some computer problems gives them a ready made exit. You don't care about the real reason, do you? You want to stop being ignored. What can be better than making the person feel all important and perfect than making him or her feel that way. Give them an impression that if not for some glitch, perfect person like him or her can not even be imagined to do such a thing.

Giving benefit of doubt is not easy at all. Our first impulse is to pay back with interest. But, once we realize the importance of BOD (Benefit of Doubt), we achieve so much positive turn around from almost everyone including some of the nastiest people that it becomes worth it.

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