William Liao

July 31, 2021

Assume Positive Intent

We rely on a variety of information including body language, tone, and the words used to understand what someone is trying to communicate to us. 

In an era where we’re communicating more asynchronously than ever, we’re often deprived of one or more of these inputs, which puts us at greater risk of misunderstanding what’s being communicated. 

Misunderstandings can quickly lead to inefficiencies and conflict at work. 

To address this risk, Matt Mullenweg — CEO of one of the largest fully remote companies in the world (Automattic) — routinely asks his employees to Assume Positive Intent (API). 

There are two components to his idea of Assuming Positive Intent: 

  1. 99.9% of the time your friends, family, and colleagues mean well when they’re communicating to you. 
  2. When you’re preparing to communicate — particularly in situations where the receiver will be deprived of valuable information like body language, tone, etc — it’s important to take extra care to think about how your message will be received when crafting it. 

When you do these two things, you’ll be much happier, your team will be much happier, and the chance of unnecessary conflict will be greatly reduced.