“Generosity” (but not in the gift giving sense)
We often get inundated with ideas about how to act generously during the holiday season. My first assumption of that concept is to give a gift or financial contribution. I have rarely considered generosity’s role in trust and relationships.
Brené Brown researched trust and identified 7 factors. She explained these in a captivating video called, “SuperSoul Sessions: The Anatomy of Trust.” I want to focus on the final concept she identified as “Generosity.”
“Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors, and then check in with me. So, if I screw up, say something, forget something, you will make a generous assumption and say ‘Yesterday was my mom’s one year anniversary of her death and it was really tough for me and I talked to you about it last month. I really was hoping you would have called, but I know you care about me. I know you think it was a big deal so I wanted to let you know that I had been thinking about that.’ As opposed to not returning calls, not returning emails, and waiting for the moment where you can spring, ‘Well you forgot to call on this important thing.’ You’ll make a generous assumption about me and check it out.”
Brown, Brené, “SuperSoul Sessions: The Anatomy of Trust.” ©2018 Brené Brown, LLC.https://brenebrown.com/videos/anatomy-trust-video/
I encourage you to be generous during this season within relationships. This can take form with strangers: letting a car into traffic, smiling at a shopper who is scowling in disgust, or thanking a merchant for their hard work. For us as therapists, generosity can be an internal response of genuine caring and empathy when a client talks about feeling isolated and alone. As described in the excerpt above, it can also peek out in our long-term relationships. When someone says something hurtful, we can respond with a generous assumption that they may be unaware of the impact of their words with a statement like, “I think you meant to be supportive. If you say it this way instead, I’m able to receive your support more easily.” Or, “I care about you and our relationship, so I want to address this to help us stay close.”
Even when we interpret a situation generously but our generous assumption is incorrect and trust isn’t built, if we interpret a situation generously, we are more likely to reduce conflict. We may even end up with a smile at a holiday gathering.