Why We Need To Give The Benefit Of The Doubt

We’re currently living in an ‘I’m offended’ kind of world. People get offended very easily these days, and tend to hold onto that feeling a little bit too long. Whether we haven’t received a response to a text message or a call (in the last ten minutes), or we didn’t get a friendly ‘hello’ from a colleague at work, the potential for us feeling offended is endless. But let’s think about it for a second – are these people really trying to offend us? Are they really saying to themselves, “I can’t wait to see how upset _______ will be when I don’t call them back in the next few hours,” or, “Yeah, I think I’m just going to be rude to _______ at the office today. That’ll do the trick”? The answer is: probably not. By thinking they are, and letting it ruminate into a grudge, we’re causing ourselves unnecessary grief. Also, the person we’re holding a grudge against is probably going about their life unknowingly and unaffected. It’s like we’re letting them live rent-free in our minds. Why let it linger for free in our already overly occupied minds? We need to give people the benefit of the doubt and free up our headspace. Here are a few things we can try if we notice a grudge about to form:

How Do We Give the Benefit of the Doubt?

Think of all of the possibilities for why they did or didn’t do something (i.e., maybe they didn’t call you back because they innocently forgot, or they’re having a really busy day). A friend of mine was having a job interview one time where the interviewer was being rude and actually yawned while checking her watch, seemingly uninterested, in the middle of her answering one of the questions. Not surprisingly, she didn’t get the job. A few months later, however, she did get a different position with the same company. She had been holding on to this feeling of anger towards the woman (who was now her colleague) and avoided talking to her. But the one time that they did engage in conversation, my friend discovered that this woman had lost her brother to cancer in the week of that initial interview. Had she given the benefit of the doubt, she wouldn’t have felt so silly upon hearing this and would have freed up some much needed headspace leading up to it. Give the benefit of the doubt.

The next time someone wrongs us, we should take a deep breath, and put ourselves in their shoes. What could be going on in their life that led to this? We should commit to a reason we are satisfied with. Even if the person does not have a legitimate reason, at least we freed up our headspace and feel better.



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