Assume Positive Intent

Have you ever seen the tagline “Assume Positive Intent”? I think I first saw it on a friend’s email signature years ago. It stood out, making me think how often I assume negative intent. This reminds me of parenting. When one of my girls is throwing a fit or being flip with me, sometimes it feels like the world, in a form of a child, is out to get me. Um, assume negative intent with your child? Um, ugh.

I’m not sure where I heard this idea first – maybe it was Susan Stiffelman– that I should let go of the story around why my child is upset. Their behavior isn’t the world throwing a traffic jam my way. Their behavior isn’t an automatic reflection on me. This is a round about way to saying that thinking about the idea of assuming positive intent is helpful. Maybe my child is throwing a tantrum because she is in need of extra love, or she’s tired, or who knows why. But if I let go of the story, I can try to be in the room.

And being in the room with loving intent brings me to today’s poem. Maybe I’m being lazy, but this project as me looking at my old poems. Today I read this one, and it’s a meditation on unconditional love (parenting calls for that!) and assuming positive intent. It’s just what I needed to read today. Maybe you do too. Either way, here is another poem from me.

Assume Positive Intent

I am love

I am disappointment



I am love.


I am kind.

I am open.

I am closed.

I am hurt.

I am curling

up into a ball


I am love.


I am anger



I am the sum


of every need

not met.

I am love.


I am breathing

in and out


to meet

my disappointment



with love.


I am love.

I am deflecting

the hurt

until I can take

it in.

I hurt






I am unloved.


I am love.

I am the moment

full of thoughts

until I can

say, “Oh well.”


take in,

blow away.

I am love.


Every minute

I spend

filling up

leaves more love

for assuming

positive intent

for letting go

of all the negative


I surmise

from every action

or inaction around me.

I am love.


I am love.

I am the sum total

of unconditional


I bathe in it


there is nothing

but love

to guide me.

Walk toward love

I think.

I am love.

-Nancy Schatz Alton


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