Most people are inclined to think that they are always right and to view others suspiciously.
The ancient Stoics knew this and trained themselves to do the opposite. They learned to question their own motives and to assume positive intent in others. “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself,” said Marcus Aurelius.
As difficult as assuming positive intent in others can be, questioning our own motives – seeing our unconscious biases – is ever harder. It requires constant vigilance, being ready to recognize the faintest taste of righteousness.
Someone will upset us today. It could be at home or at work or out in public. Let’s try not to react. Let’s assume positive intent. Then, let’s identify when we, ourselves, engaged in a similar, or worse, behavior in the past. And, finally, let’s ask ourselves what drove us to that behavior. What belief did we have? Where did that belief come from? What bias was at play?
Imagine 7 billion of us doing this just once today. What would tomorrow look like?