As election season ramps up, I’ve been reflecting on how foolish it is to attribute nefarious motives to people without good reason to do so. It seems like the major messages political campaigns try to communicate are statements such as “X candidate doesn’t care about federal spending and getting out of debt!”or “Y candidate wants to cut Medicare!”
Really? Politicians may have terrible motives sometimes, but do we really believe that they actively intend to harm society in the ways that their opponents say they do?
In most cases, it’s much wiser and more gracious to assume that people—not just politicians, but our coworkers, neighbors, and relatives—are on our side. They generally want to achieve the same good things for the nation, the community, the company, or the family, that we do. They may just have a different method for accomplishing these goals than we do. It’s usually a leap of logic to conclude that because someone’s problem-solving methodology is different from ours, they don’t care about problem-solving at all. And groundlessly accusing them of this is simply counterproductive and downright rude. Much better to assume the best about people’s motives, focus on the things we have in common—shared concerns and shared goals—and negotiate a compromise between different methods to address these things.
What would the election season look like if candidates were to quit putting so much energy into mud-slinging and scathing accusations, and to interact in a more gracious, respectful way? And what would our communities, businesses, and families look like if we adopted the same approach?