Erring on the Side of Graciousness

Hanlon’s razor is a familiar maxim that states, “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”  A bit harsh, this adage reminds us that while our brains may jump to a conclusion of ill intentions, often a more benign reason is the cause.  This automatic thinking may have served our ancestors, but as humans have evolved, so must our thinking.

Mindset is a powerful tool.  Our thoughts form our emotions, affect our actions, and can even have an impact on our physical health.  Actively shaping our thoughts from automated negativity to intentional positivity takes work and vigilance.  I know this from my own experience, and the payoff is truly transformational.  Here are some suggestions to help reshape your thinking:

  • Your attorney wants to talk to you.  You initially think something must be wrong.  Try thinking that the conversation will bring news and information to help your situation move toward a solution.
  • The opposing party makes a suggestion for settlement.  You initially think they must be trying to take advantage, or you may wonder what’s the catch.  Instead, approach the proposal analytically and look for ways it could be mutually beneficial.
  • A client calls first thing on Monday morning.  Instead of thinking, “Great.  What are they grousing about now?” even if they are calling with a problem they want you to solve, see this instead as an opportunity to be of service.

I describe this approach as erring on the side of graciousness. Do not mistake this approach as naïve.  A mind that actively attempts first to think gracious thoughts is not a mind that does not think critically or examine carefully. Instead, it is a mind that does not miss possibilities because it is stuck thinking of problems or malicious intent.

I was talking recently with a client who recognized their thinking was getting the better of them.  This client has been working on their mindset and was proud to share they did not spend too much time going down a rabbit hole of all the “whats” that used to haunt their mind.  What used to cause sleepless nights was instead a topic for journaling that crystallized into a handful of helpful questions for our productive conversation.  Seeing this transformation in my client was a beautiful reminder of why mindset is so valuable.  As a prompt to always be working in my mindset and err on the side of graciousness, I moved a book titled Beautiful Thoughts: Everyday Reflections on a Good Life from a side table to my desk, where I will see it each day.

Think beautiful thoughts, and stay gracious, my friends.