A hypothesis of generosity

None of us suffer from a deficit of experience. In fact, “stuff’ happens virtually non-stop.

The daily rhythm of life is that we have ups and downs. Problems manifest, big and small. Complications arise, both profound and mundane. We encounter joys, concerns and everywhere in between. Items get checked off our to-do list. Or not.

Amidst the backdrop of our existence come the many challenges to our equanimity. Often these arise as times when we feel confronted, slighted, or disrespected, Other times we may feel shunned or even attacked.

Maybe we get get cut off in traffic or treated rudely by a stranger. A friend doesn’t call us back. A co-worker doesn’t include us in an important meeting. Perhaps we don’t feel truly heard by our partner. Maybe we even sense that we are being judged or harshly criticized by someone who loves us.

If you are anything like me, you might find yourself drawn to apply a strong filter of negativity, propelled by self-righteousness, defensiveness and anger. If you are anything like me, you might start to make up quite a lot about what’s actually going on and what it all means.

So what if instead we started with a hypothesis of generosity? What if our filter was set to kindness and curiosity instead of assuming the worst possible interpretation? What if we followed Brene Brown‘s advice in her book Rising Strong and we asked ourselves “what is the most generous assumption about this person’s intentions or what this person said?”

In choosing this path we have to challenge our ego. We have to let go of the need to be right. We have to stop getting our needs met through propping ourselves up by putting others down. We have to move toward connection, rather than run from it. It’s not always easy. And it means telling ourselves a fundamentally different story.

But as Brene goes on to remind us:  “What do we call a story that’s based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality? A conspiracy theory.”

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This post also appeared on my business blog at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

Author: stevenpdennis

Steve Dennis is a strategic advisor and thought-leader on retail innovation, marketing and growth strategy. He has served as the chief strategy officer and led the development of omni/multichannel integration efforts as a member of the executive committee of two Fortune 500 retailers. He was recently named one of retail's top 20 influencers and is a retail contributor for Forbes. As President of SageBerry Consulting he helps retail, consumer and social impact brands accelerate their growth and improve their customer focus and results. Prior to founding SageBerry, Steve was Senior Vice President, Strategy & Multichannel Marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group where he drove major strategic initiatives and led the company’s multichannel integration, loyalty marketing and customer insight strategy. As a speaker, Steve delivers keynotes, leads workshops and moderates expert panels on how retailers and brands can reinvent themselves to thrive during an age of digital disruption. Steve’s blog at www.stevenpdennis.com is one of the retail industry’s most followed and his thoughts on the future of retail have been featured at Bloomberg/Business Week, CNBC, Fortune, the Harvard Business Review, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and many other media channels. Steve is a member of several for-profit and non-profit Board of Directors and Advisory Boards. In the social impact sector, he is a long-term partner/Board member with Social Venture Partners Dallas and its immediate past Board Chair. Steve is also actively engaged as a Mentor and Advisor to the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ GroundFloor Social Innovation Accelerator. He has worked with numerous non-profits and social enterprises to amplify their impact, including Education Opens Doors, the Akola Project, Bonton Farms, Children@Risk and Leadership ISD. Steve received his MBA from Harvard and a BA from Tufts University.

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