Things You Should Do Everyday to Improve Your Life For Real: Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t like TIME’s list of 10 Things You Should Do Everyday to Improve Your Life For Real.

First of all, I never trust a list with ten items. A round number like ten leads me to think that an item or two was added or removed in order to achieve the seemingly perfect ten. 

More importantly, the items on TIME’s list are all fairly obvious, making the list relatively useless.

Spend time with friends and family.
Challenge yourself.
Express gratitude.

This is not a helpful list. These are things that you are either doing already or already know that you should be doing.

In response, I intend to offer my own list of things that you should do everyday to improve your life for real. Rather than offering the list all at once, I will post my ideas at random intervals on this blog. They will represent lessons that I have learned over the years that have improved my life. My goal is to present items not nearly as obvious or universally known as “Meditate” (something I do) or “Get out into nature.”

Today’s idea:

Always give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

On an almost everyday basis, I encounter people who make enormous assumptions about the actions and motivations of others. More often than not, these people assume the worst of people, and this often leads to confrontation, behind-the-back conversation, embarrassment and a persistent, pervasive level of distrust and deceit.

I try to remember that everyone is the hero of their story, and in most cases, people make decisions that they believe are right and just. Rather than assuming the worst, I give people the benefit of the doubt and try to assume the best. I try to understand how and why a person might rationalize their decision in the context of doing the right or fair thing.

I find myself in the position of Devil’s Advocate quite often.

I also find myself frequently complaining to friends and colleagues that they have forced me into defending a person who I would rather not defend simply because they are jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. Why not allow the person in question to prove or disprove their good intent rather than assuming it for them? 

Case in point:

A friend recently read a comment on her son’s report card and assumed that the teacher was attributing her son’s struggles to a failure in the home. I explained to this friend that the comment could interpreted several ways, and since it was her son’s teacher, why not assume the best of intentions until proved otherwise? Instead, this friend entered the parent-teacher conference angry and combative, only to find herself apologizing for assuming the worst. 


When you give people the benefit of the doubt, good things happen.

1. You may be proven right. Wouldn’t that be great?

2. You’ll never be in a position of having to apologize or make excuses for your false assumptions. Even worse, people who assume the worst and are proven wrong often avoid responsibility for their faulty, inimical assumptions by pointing out that they are based upon a person’s previous history. This is simply a mealy-mouthed means of demonstrating their inability to take responsibility for their own actions.

3. You will constantly be placing yourself in the shoes of others, trying to understand their motivations better. You will find yourself seeking nobility rather than villainy. The ability to parse out all the possible motives of another person is a useful skill that will serve you well in life.

4,. When you give people the benefit of the doubt, others trust you more. They come to believe that you have people’s best interests at heart. You will be viewed as a more optimistic, trustworthy person. You will have more friends,    

5. Giving people the benefit of the doubt casts the world in a kinder, gentler light. It becomes a nicer place to live.