(Distinctions are subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude.)
On the surface it sounds like a good idea to give someone the ‘benefit of the doubt,’ but it has hidden problems. You may think you’re being gracious, open for different viewpoints. You may think it’s a way to avoid push-back or conflict. You may be giving in to their perceived higher intelligence. Or you may think it sets the stage for growth for all concerned. However, you risk missing something important in the process.
Giving someone the benefit of the doubt just because they disagree with you doesn’t make them right. They may be totally off-base. They may not see the big picture. They may simply be getting some need met that has nothing to do with you or your viewpoint.
When you come from the place of allowing for someone’s humanity it means you don’t judge them or make them wrong for their input, but it does mean you hold uppermost your ability and desire to discover the truth. You don’t let go of what you know.
When you go the ‘benefit of the doubt’ route you risk suppressing your own discernment and that is of far greater cost than trying to make them feel good about their opinion.
Coaching Point: Does ‘allowing for someone’s humanity’ sound too woo-woo for you? Or does that feel like a strong way to interact with everyone you meet?
Copyright 2011 Steve Straus. All rights reserved.