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Tiny Wisdom: On Discovering the Best in People

“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.” -William Arthur Ward

I read somewhere once that we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and other people by their actions. In other words, we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, whereas we’re more apt to assume other people mean to be cruel, inconsiderate, or hurtful when they make poor choices.

I suspect this is a survival strategy: We need to believe that we are good people in order to live with ourselves, and we want to quickly assess which other people aren’t to make sure that they won’t hurt us. It’s a mental shortcut, if you will–the sooner you discover the worst in people, the sooner you can plan how to protect yourself.

But what it if we decided that just like us, most other people mean well, and then instead of fearing the worst, focused on finding the best? What if we put all our energy into recognizing the light in other people, and in doing so, brightened the light within us?

I know that whenever I believe in someone else, it awakens a sense of possibility inside me. It makes me feel more connected to other people, more empowered to collaborate with them, and more passionate about what we can all accomplish if we work with each other, not against each other.

Today if you feel tempted to focus on another person’s flaws, ask yourself: What good qualities am I overlooking, and what possibilities could I create if I focused more on those?

Photo by emilio labrador

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About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sarahneanbruceDOTcom Sarah Nean Bruce

    i was intrigued with what Lori/tinybuddha points out in today’s article, as i had not really thought about the disconnect of how people judge themselves & others. mainly because i typically look for the best in people (& think they did the same as me), & that their intentions might be good, even tho their actions are not always the best (perhaps due to fear?).

  • Mark Richards

    The world can be a lonely place and words like these definately help. A nice blend of optimism and reality. Thanks!

  • Amandajeza

    this strategy nearly caused me major disaster recently

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s wonderful that you always focus on finding the best in people. I think fear is generally the reason why we don’t always do that. I have been there before–there have been plenty of times when I’ve let fear take the wheel in relationships and encounters! However, I know I always feel much more peaceful and expansive when I choose to shift my focus.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m so sorry to hear about that. I think this is one of the biggest challenges to focusing on the best in people–every now and then we get burned, and it’s tempting to get cynical. This reminded me of something I read a while back about a concept the blogger called the “optimism tax.” I thought you might find it interesting: http://bit.ly/68T9s

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  • Leona

    I like the post about the “optimism tax”. I want to believe the best of people. But yesterday I was mugged while walking along a street near my home. My trust (that I should be able to walk along a street minding my own business) has been taken advantage of, which makes me feel very upset and angry. I now feel unsafe walking down my own street, and I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. I know that anger won’t help and will only hurt me in the long run, but how can I let go of it?

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Leona,

    I think in a case like this, sometimes it just takes time. My apartment was robbed last spring, and I felt completely violated and unsafe in the beginning. In addition to my laptop and phone, the person/people took a ton of stuff from my bedroom, including jewelry, purses, and my hamper (to carry stuff). It bothered me to know someone entered my private space in that way. I’d get out of the shower and wonder if someone had somehow gotten in.

    Eventually, I shifted my focus to all the people who were there for me–and there were a lot. I actually wrote about that experience here:

    http://tinybuddha.com/blog/it-could-be-far-worse/

    I have a feeling your anger will fade as you get some distance from the incident. Perhaps in the meantime it will help to think about the things you didn’t lose that you could of.

    I hope this helps a little!

    Lori

  • Leona

    Hi Lori,

    Thanks for this. I think you’re right, and I’m already trying to focus on the supportive people around me (like my workmate who went out and bought me a bar of chocolate :)) I read your other article and it was helpful too. Hopefully, as you say, the anger will lessen as time passes, leaving only a lesson to take certain precautions in future.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. That was nice of your workmate. =) I just realized that I jumped right into my thoughts/advice before and I forgot to write the obvious–I’m so sorry that you got mugged! I’m sure it was a scary experience. I hope that day by day, it gets a little easier to release your anger.