Assume Positive Intent
Apple's unwritten credo
At one point in my career I was taught a value, a credo – Assume positive intent. These three words gave me a different perspective of people.
Most of you probably don’t know my full career history. For a period of nearly five years, I worked for Apple. Well, Apple retail. This was a transformative role of mine. It changed how I worked and thought in so many ways. It was also my gateway role into tech, as after this I was recruited into my first QA role.
From my first Apple interview, which I failed, to my nearly fifth year, I learned more things than I can explain in one newsletter, but those three words stuck. All Apple employees learned Apple’s credo. It was a small booklet that was worn behind our name cards. I know, it sounds a bit culty, but it really wasn’t. These three words were not explicitly in the credo booklet but they should have been. As a company, we referred to these words almost daily. They were meant for giving and accepting "fearless feedback". The idea was to provide your coworkers, bosses, etc with feedback, regardless of their position, and for both parties to accept this feedback without malice.
This is something I practiced regularly. I provided feedback, face-to-face, from coworkers all the way to my district manager. Yes, this allowed me to talk to people without thinking they were out to get me, but also provided me with confidence and the ability to see one's humanity. That, regardless of their role in society, they are a person above all else and they most likely mean well.
Over the seven years since quitting Apple, I have kept these words in the back of my mind. I refer to them when a coworker provides me feedback about me or my work – be it in-person, on Slack, or even a comment in Figma. By using this as a baseline you can look past our human-centric negativity. I use these words for a general sanity check when someone crosses me in my day-to-day life too. If I come across someone that is angry or brief with me, I try to assume that the reason why they are like this, at this moment, is due to a circumstance that I did not trigger. This allows me to step out of the moment and deal with it rationally.
Yeah, these words are simple. They can even sound a bit naive. Not everyone is nice, but most are creatures of circumstance. By assuming positive intent we can receive feedback in-person or online whilst seeing past the trolls, we can bump into someone on the street without starting a fight, we can even communicate with our loved ones easier. So, if you don't do so already, give it a try, you might be surprised by people and even by yourself.