The concept of giving or not giving the benefit of the doubt is very important when it comes to relationships—especially if you’re trying to start a new relationship, or build a stronger relationship with someone.
The Free Dictionary defines giving the benefit of the doubt as, “To believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either.”
This comes naturally to generally positive people. But is it good to always give others the benefit of the doubt? No. Clearly, some people have not earned our strong faith or belief in them, and we only place ourselves in jeopardy of disappointment (or worse) if we extend trust where it is not deserved. Positive people can safeguard themselves from unhealthy relationships by understanding the drawbacks of extending the benefit of the doubt where it is not due.
For the realist or more skeptical personality, drawing the line with others comes more easily, but skeptics can often error on the side of being overly cautious too. Constant mistrust of others will derail efforts to build and create strong relationships, so not giving the benefit of the doubt can also be a drawback when trying to create healthy relationships.
If our goal is to start or strengthen a relationship, it’s important to consider how much trust we’re going to give the person. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or a new person in our lives, we need to observe the person’s behavior to ensure we’re appropriately giving the benefit of the doubt to those who deserve it, and are not just allowing ourselves to be duped into trusting someone who has not earned our trust.
Relationship expert and best-selling author, Dr. Margaret Paul, advises this—“the real issue is whether you are going to trust your gut feelings rather than what someone else says. It can be very easy for bright and charming people to say the things you want to hear, but is their behavior consistent with their words? If you feel confused, pay attention. Often, confusion indicates that the other person is not being honest. If you start to feel anxious in the relationship, you must pay attention to the anxiety. “
Never ignore your own inner voice. In your heart of hearts, you know when someone’s actions and behaviors seem questionable, and you know when they are earnest. Give the benefit of the doubt only where it is due. This will help to safeguard yourself from unhealthy relationships, and help you create strong and lasting ones.