Assuming Positive Intent

Adam Callender
2 min readNov 6, 2021
Photo credit Anna Gru on Unsplsh

Assuming Positive Intent

Positive intent is an integral part of our modus operandi. Our MO, an integral part of our approach to situations.

But does our behavior reflect this?

Easy to forget if you work in a responsible role and at times, you might feel frequently under attack. Whereby, it can feel like being in a perpetual state of suspicion.

To move out of a state of fear. Thinking beyond ourselves’ and to consider what is best for all. Expanding our perspective, joining the conversation. Therefore, becoming part of the solution, by communicating our good intentions.

Assume positive intent in those around us.

Importantly, we tend to judge others on their behaviors and judge ourselves on our intention.

Understanding and communicating intent is rarely given much importance in business, though. Goals and vision are shared as carefully curated documents, or through great speeches created by well-oiled communications machines. CEOs forget that if the intent of these plans isn’t aligned with the communication, people may be impressed, but deep down inside, they will not believe in those plans or act on them. Vineet Nayar

Similarly, Marie Claire Ross, writes about Assuming Positive Intent as being Critical for Leadership:

We have a built-in negativity bias that stops us from seeing the good in people and only seeing bad. It is deadly to leadership and building trust with others. For many of us, we do this subconsciously. Critiquing newcomers with whatever we value or assuming that others can’t be trusted.

In other words, intentions are powerful, guiding our understanding of ourselves and those around us. Organizations have successfully used intent over time to create enduring success.

Therefore, expecting our colleagues, our peers to have good intentions, that they are trying to do their best. Taps into our assumptions, challenging these can be helpful. As can asking questions about the intent of others, confronting bias and expanding our understanding of others.

Some of the best working relationships can be developed through siting down, developing mutual understanding, comparing goals and then individual intent.

How we approach our work

Indra Nooyi, ex CEO of Pepsi, learnt from her father:

Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream.

The excellent intentions of others can uplift our mood, indeed our day. To be inspired by our purpose and shaping our intentions for positive impact can help us enjoy the journey.



Adam Callender

Sydney based, Adam coaches and mentors career professionals, leaders and business owners. He is fascinated by humans, motorsport, mountain bikes and technology.