Episode 174: Challenge #5 – Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Episode 174: Challenge #5 – Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Welcome Listeners to the Love Your Story podcast. Today’s episode is a part of a series where I am going into more detail on each of the challenges in my book – LIFE  – which stands for: Living Intentional and Fearless Everyday, the 21 Life Connection Challenges – today is all about Challenge #5 – Give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Just a quick recap – 

In episode 12 and 89  I went into some wonderful detail about the process of doing Random Acts of Kindness, which is Challenge # 1 in the 21 Life Connection Challenges.

In episode 163 I went into detail with Ashley Stuart, a de-clutter expert, and we talked about why challenge #2 – to get rid of 1 thing you no longer need – is so much more important than this simple act seems on the surface. 

In episode 169 I tackled an in-depth on challenge #3 where we looked at what it really means and looks like to find the lesson in something that doesn’t go your way. Again, great stuff with expert Leslie Householder on finding the gratitude and lesson in our trials or disappointments.

In episode episode 171 we got into detail about why Challenge #4 – a life hack I call “Success-file” is so important to living happy.

And today we are on Challenge #5 – which is – Giving people the benefit of the doubt and how that becomes relationship changing.


The recaps of these challenges is about getting into more detail about why the challenge was included in the book, to hear what experts have to say about the topic, and to see what it looks like in real life.

These 21 Challenges are not just a random bunch of challenges I threw together. They have been chosen for specific reasons, and the shifts they cause in every day lives just by using them. That’s what these episodes are about – is delving into why each challenge is important.

So let’s talk about the challenge of giving someone the benefit of the doubt. —challenge #5.

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt may be easier than it sounds. But first let’s talk about what it is:

The Urban Dictionary says, To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to default to the belief that their intentions are honest, and not assume malice when there is uncertainty or doubt surrounding the circumstances.

Or, in other words, to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either. 

The reason this challenge is included is because this small decision will make a huge difference in your relationships, and the challenges are to help you create connection in your life.

Benefit of the doubt example:

John didn’t pay me back the $20 he owes me, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he simply forgot and isn’t trying to rip me off.

Jill is late, but there must be a good reason and it’s not just because she doesn’t respect my time.

My spouse hasn’t done what they agreed to do, but before getting upset I’ll talk to them about it – something probably got in the way.

Let’s talk about doing it ….giving the benefit of the doubt?

When someone does or says something that irritates you, feels unfair, or feels like a betrayal, giving the benefit of the doubt means that you consciously change the way you are interpreting the situation and the story you are building around it, and instead find a way to give that person the benefit of the doubt that they did not mean offense, that they are doing the best they can, that there is part of the story you don’t understand, or consider that there may be a misunderstanding.

People rub up against each other (metaphorically speaking) all the time; it’s what we do. There are rubs and irritants, and miscommunications every day. But if everyone gave each other the benefit of the doubt that they meant well, or that they are doing the best they can in their current state of understanding, I suspect life would generate a whole lot less friction and we would instead create grace for others. 

I know I am always grateful when people afford me a little grace and create stories that are generous and kind rather than being quick to take offense. I never mean to be offensive but sometimes I most certainly am, and I appreciate it when a friend or person is mature enough not to jump to conclusions or offense.

It is human nature to want to make sense of things we see and hear, so we try to fill in the details. This is where we get power  – Instead of filling the stories with negative beliefs, fill other people’s stories with compassion. The person with the scowl is not angry with you; rather, they are having a bad day and could use a smile.

The guy riding your bumper in traffic might really have an emergency he needs to speed to, he’s not just being a jerk.

By choosing to fill stories with kindness rather than negativity, this obviously changes our interactions with others because if we go in having filled in negative details or taken things at face value we’ll be ready to fight or confront. But, if we fill their stories with compassion, we will begin our interactions with kindness. And this one choice changes everything.

The main reason we we strive to give the benefit of the doubt, which I know first-hand, is when we do it saves our relationships. For me, it saves how I feel about the people in my life.

Years ago I was just starting to go out with a guy that I had known from high school. He was the heart throb back then and a big catch, but he was a hard one to get to know. Well….One of my friends who had known him was supposed to be putting in a good word for me – in fabulous Jr. high style, even though we were adults, but every time I spoke with her about if she’d had the conversation with him, she just put me off. I was really hurt by her lack of support because we had been good friends since high school and I had supported her with many such things, and I couldn’t figure out why she would tell me one thing and then act differently – act like she was on board and then not follow through. I felt a sense of betrayal, if I’m honest. I felt like she was letting me down when I felt like she could really help out and it didn’t seem like it would be much skin off her back – a simple thing. After a few weeks of this I realized my feelings toward her were really changing. I wasn’t feeling like she was a good friend. I wasn’t feeling like I could trust her to have my back. It was a real cross-roads moment. I recognized that if I did not come up with a way to give her the benefit of the doubt that I would be forfeiting this friendship. So I made the choice…I made the conscious choice to create a reality in my own head that allowed for her own issues, her own jealousy, her inability to be straight forward with me, and to allow her to be whole, with all her issues and choices, because that’s what friends do. It allowed me to continue my friendship with her – which I have never regretted.

Boots on the ground – giving the benefit of the doubt saves relationships, creates less stress, and generates better feelings in our own hearts

Liz Newman said, “Give people the benefit of the doubt, over and over again, and do the same for yourself. Believe that you’re trying and that they’re trying. See the good in others, so it brings out the best in you.” 

I have a special treat for you today – some of the people who have been taking the challenges are families – which include, of course, children and teens. Three of these fabulous kids have offered to share their experiences with this challenge.

Here they are:

Tune into the audio program to hear these teen’s experiences with the challenge.

Quick recap: Giving the benefit of the doubt does primarily 3 things: 1. Saves your relationships 2. Creates less stress for you. 3. Changes the energy at which you approach people which changes outcomes for the better.

Your challenge this week is to keep this top of mind and to practice giving the benefit of the doubt. I’d love to hear from you about your experience. Email me at lorijlee@msn.com with Challenge 5 in the subject line. You can do this at home with family members, with people across the board whether you know them or not, so there is lots of opportunity.

If you want your own copy of the 21 LIFE Connection Challenges hop on Amazon or hit up loveyourstorypodcast.com for a link to Amazon to get your own copy.

We’ll see you in two weeks for our next episode.

About the author, Lori

Lori is the host and producer of the Love Your Story podcast, a podcast dedicated to sharing candid interviews and conversations about living our best life stories on purpose. Lori pulls no punches in capturing interviews that shine a light on how we make it through the hard stuff – stress, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, rape, the death of children, abuse, divorce and the real stuff we have to deal with. But, she also shares interviews with Olympians and incredible athletes, life coaches, therapists, and people who are changing the world – most often these two categories are one and the same. She has a master’s degree in Folklore--her research focuses on the personal narrative. She is the author of six books and over 100 magazine and newspaper articles, including her latest, L.I.F.E. – Living Intentional and Fearless Every Day. She consults with individuals on a personal and business level in helping them find their stories, reframe the ones that are holding them back, and manage the stories they currently tell themselves in order to create the story they personally want to live.

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