What would your response be then?
We often feel other people have let us down in some way, or maybe they’ve let others down, or even themselves. We feel they could have done better.
Maybe they could.
Or maybe, actually, they couldn’t…
Maybe, in fact, they were doing the best they could at the time. Or at least, we’ll make more progress if we assume they were doing their best despite how it might seem.
The thing is…
We really don’t know what else is going on in people’s lives. We don’t know what else they’re having to take into consideration.
The NLP discipline has this as an expectation—in fact, it’s stronger than that—a requirement that practitioners act as if “people make the best decisions available to them at the time”.
Over the years, partly through my own mistakes of course, I’ve learned just how much mileage there is in this principle—just how different things are when it’s recognized.
We’ll get a better outcome if we cut other people (and ourselves) a little slack and accept they were doing their best. Sure, we might well seek to shape things for the future, but that’s different. Also, we might need to decide whether “their best” is acceptable relative to commitments that have been made e.g. to an employer. Again, that’s different.
People truly are doing the best they can at the time. It’s a characteristic of living systems. Putting it another way, given everything they had to consider including their own and others’ interests, they didn’t know how to do any better, because if they did, they would have done it. They need something they don’t yet have. Perhaps we can help them learn whatever it is they need to learn for the future.
Try a little forgiveness in the present. There’s more chance of influencing the future than the past, and more still if we accept people are doing their best at the time. And that goes for you too. When we apply the principle to ourselves, more often than not the world around us gains when we stop beating ourselves up about past mistakes.
I’ve decided to make available the notes (6 pages) from a talk on leadership I gave recently. These include specific insights into how to get organisations to learn and change and increase their performance. You can get a copy here…