With only four weeks of the year to go, it is fair to suggest some of the troops are getting restless. The Year 8 boys have been spoken to about finishing well as clearly a small number are not entirely focused on that and variously throughout the school there are minor incidents of boys not adhering to our expectations. The reason to bring this to your notice is not to raise any alarm or concern, but merely to provide a context. In dealing with these situations, boys need to understand that when we are reprimanding, disciplining, issuing consequences or whatever, we do so in the hope that boys assume we do so with positive intent.
I recall reading this commentary by Kevin Francis on Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust and I think it is worth sharing.
Covey says that we judge ourselves according to our intentions, but we judge other people according to their behaviour and make assumptions about their intentions. Another person’s behaviour towards us impacts considerably on what we think of them and, in turn, determines how we will take their intentions. Assuming positive intent means consciously choosing to assume that the message being given is done so in the best interests of the person receiving it.
The principle of positive intent is that at some level, all behaviour is (or at one time was) positively intended. We should therefore look for the positive in what others are trying to say. If a person offers us advice, we often dissect it to figure out what their ‘real’ agenda is. If someone disagrees with us or identifies an area where we might need improvement, we may become defensive because we feel criticised on both a professional and personal level. Assuming positive intent is to assume that people aren’t out to ‘get us’ that their purpose is to help us. When confronted with a situation in which we feel criticised, it is helpful to take a step back and look at it from a different point of view. Rather than being suspicious of other people’s motives we need to assume that they are doing the best they can and that their intentions are not to attack us but to help us grow and be more successful.
If we assume the other person’s intentions are negative and are directed at attacking us then we are immediately defensive, less likely to trust them and less likely to listen to what they are saying. Assuming positive intent is to believe that the other person doesn’t have a hidden agenda.
It would probably be fair to suggest that as teachers and parents we sometimes find ourselves frustrated that the advice and guidance we impart is not always taken in the way it is intended, or worse, treated with suspicion. It therefore behoves us to be aware of our disposition. Two people may give the same advice but the manner in which it is given determines how it will be received. The degree of acceptance depends on a number of factors. The time, place and context all impact on the outcome of what is intended. So does who is giving the message. I sometimes hear parents saying ‘It will be better if it comes from …..’ (referring to someone other than themselves). While this might be true, the reality is that no matter who is giving the message the intention is the same. Young people make judgements on the basis of how they are spoken to and are more likely to trust those whose intentions are honourable. For those who might have suspicions about our intent, it might be as well to point out that we actually do have their best interests at heart and really want the best for them.
Having our children understand that assuming positive intent means consciously adopting a mindset that assumes that parents and teachers are genuine and well-meaning, even if sometimes the way we approach things could be better. Perhaps unpacking something of what Covey has said may help us explain to our boys why we say what we say in response to their behaviour.