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“The Benefit of the Doubt” – Love Matters, July 2016

We recently spoke with a former client who is now in a successful long-term relationship.  We were discussing those elements of a relationship that can make or break a loving connection.  She told us that she explained to her partner that when they discussed something about which they disagreed, he immediately thought she was trying to “one-up” him by proving him wrong or uninformed; or, worse, intentionally trying to give him a hard time.

“I had to explain to him that he wasn’t giving me the benefit of the doubt.”  By that, we took what she meant to be that when in conflict, it is important to give the other person the benefit of believing that what they say and do is sincere and not meant to inflict pain or humiliation.  It is most often a real difference of opinion and, as such, can be discussed, negotiated and potentially resolved.

It is easy, even in the opening stages of a relationship, or even as the relationship is just beginning, to project our own feelings of doubt and uncertainty onto a situation.  We hear so often, “I just texted him two hours ago and haven’t heard back.” Or, “I sent her this really nice email to initiate contact, and all she sent me was a luke- warm acceptance with the excuse that she is very busy this month.”  “These people (online) are so rude.”

In most cases, we would argue, if you give someone the benefit of the doubt, you will find that they are sincere but are not responding the way you would like for many good and reasonable reasons. Giving someone a second chance after a first date – which is often filled with expectation and anxiety – is a good place to learn about giving someone the benefit of the doubt. If you then have good solid reason to believe that your good will and open-mindedness are falling on deaf ears, then you can pull back.  To do so sooner risks missing out on some very promising opportunities.

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