By: Claire Louge, Executive Director
Do you believe, generally speaking, that people are doing the best they can?
There’s no correct answer to this question, but your answer says a lot about how you see the world, and how you may approach trying to change it.
A couple of months ago, I had the good fortune of participating in Dare to Lead™, a training program developed by Dr. Brené Brown. I learned a gazillion things from that program, but one element that stood out was this concept of whether not we believe that people, for the most part, are trying to do their best.
If your answer is no, you probably have some strong reasons. Maybe you think that since there’s so much hurt in the world, people can’t possibly be trying their best. Maybe you believe that some people are willfully destructive or inconsiderate. You may believe they should know better and do better.
If your answer is yes, you also have good reasons for your answer. Maybe you think that being a human is stressful, and life is so full of demands, it’s amazing how anyone functions at all. Maybe you think that most people have a genuine, natural desire to do the best they can.
Again, there’s no right answer, but I do know that the assumption that people are trying their best is a foundation for positive change.
Why would that be? When you believe a person is not trying to do their best, their behavior is framed as a willful decision. The ‘problem,’ therefore, is them, and that’s not in your control. However, when you believe a person is trying their best, even when their behavior is annoying or unpleasant, you begin to wonder what is contributing to their behavior. You begin to see people and their actions in terms of what has happened to them and what is happening to them – their circumstances.
And from there, you may wonder what might need to shift for them to be able to improve their best, to behave differently. Because our ‘best’ changes. And from there, we can ask ourselves, how do we help people’s best get better?
That creates hope for change we can all contribute to. Because try as we might, we can’t actually control people’s behaviors, but we can contribute to changing their circumstances. And maybe then we can help people – including ourselves – get to a better best.
For me, that better best is an Arizona free from child abuse and neglect. To get there, we need to change the circumstances that we know lead to child maltreatment. That starts with seeing people not as problems, but as humans constantly adapting to their circumstances – trying their best.