Too often we let preconceived ideas color our attitudes and our communication. Doing that can prevent us from understanding others, and also being understood. It can also lead to unnecessary conflict!

Suspend judgment at the outset. If you allow opinion or prior knowledge of the speaker to interfere, you may miss both what is being said, and the intent of the speaker.

Concentrate on the message, not the messenger. We are often told how much visual impressions, and tone of voice color our acceptance of what we hear, and what others hear from us. And yet if we focus first on negative aspects of the delivery, we may, again, miss the message.

Look for meaning. Sometimes we judge people based on appearance, social status, education, reputation, or age. At other times we dismiss the entire conversation (or written piece) once an error of fact, logic, or grammar is made. What gems could we be missing? What snippets could trigger our own next big idea? Turn off your inner critic!

Think the best of others. Rather than assuming the worst, assume the best. Ask yourself what is the best possible thing this person could have meant. We are all egocentric, to a degree. Rather than imagining some slight or evil-doing, consider that you and your concerns may not be top-of-mind for another person. It’s possible they are not doing you a disservice—you may just not be on their radar screen! (And we know we cannot change them. We can only change ourselves and our response to what we see!)

Plan to discover something new from every conversation. It may be about the topic, the speaker, the venue, or even about yourself! Seeing things in a negative light may save you from being disappointed later, but how often do things turn out better than you thought, and how much energy does it take you to look for the worst? I’d place my bets on the positive side of things—Hands Down!

What Do You Think? Questions and comments welcome!