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Do You Believe People are Doing the Best They Can?

A mug with a latte with a heart flower in foam on top

Back in July, I had the opportunity to attend Labyrinth Summer School in New Harmony, Indiana, and discovered the hospitality of Alex and team at Black Lodge Coffee Roasters. In order to acommodate our schedule, Alex opened a little earlier that week, and every morning, I walked the few blocks to order a hot drink and a little breakfast. Alex and his team, though, offered more than just a drink and food. EVERYTHING was grounded in care and connection, from the warm welcome as I came through the door to the patient question and answer session that helped me choose my drink and food to the warm goodbye as I set out for the rest of the day. Each morning was chock full o' delight.

As I was waiting for my drink and food one morning, another attendee came in, her first time in the shop. She recognized me, and we chatted a bit while she waited her turn to order. She couldn't decide what she wanted, and I assured her that the team behind the counter was both helpful and knowledgeable. She ordered, sat down at the table next to me, and then I heard my name called, so I went to pick up my food and drink.

I came back to the table, sat the plate and cup down, turning everything, so I could see it the way I wanted to, and then sat for a moment, taking it in. [As frequent readers of Table Talk know, Mark usually makes me a perfect cup of coffee every morning, but I don't generally have an espresso drink with art on top.]

Me: Oh, gosh! Look how beautiful this coffee is!

Other attendee, looking over, kind of confused: Oh... um, yes, I believe it's called "latte art," and it's pretty common. Remind me where you're from... hold on, Indiana, right? Don't you have Starbucks or other coffee shops at home? I think they probably do the latte art, too.

Me: Oh, yes, I know about latte art, and this isn't my first time seeing it. I'm just feeling such care and attention and love in this place, and this drink smells declicious and looks so beautiful!

Other attendee: Right... yes, sure...

I've had stuff "'splained" to me plenty, and in fact, it still happens on the regular. An earlier version of me might've made a snide comment or rolled my eyes at her. And actually, an earlier version of me might've missed the whole litany of delights in that coffee shop because I would've been on the things-to-do-people-to-see script. Lucky for me, I have contemplative practices and Dr. Brené Brown in my life now.

Are People Doing the Best They Can?

In her book, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené tells a story about a time when she was deep in resentment because she'd said yes to a speaking engagement that she really didn't want to do, including sharing a room with another presenter. This experience sent her on a journey with the inquiry: Do you believe people are doing the best they can?

As a researcher, Brené often wrestles with big questions, and she asks lots of people these questions as she gathers data to formulate answers. And what I believe she means by "best they can" is "In the midst of this, with everything that is going on around them, with the resources available to them, do you believe that, generally, people are doing the best they can?".

Loretta and I take this inquiry to groups we facilitate, and it also comes up in some of the one-on-one work I do. And last year, Brené and her sister, Ashley, spent two episodes of their podcast Unlocking Us discussing this inquiry and their learnings from it. If this is intriguing to you at all, it's worth your time to listen to both Part 1 and Part 2.

And if you've ever thought, "Good grief, what is it with these Thought Kitchen people and boundaries?!", this is why we believe deeply in developing, building, and maintaining the ability to work skillfully with boundaries:

The answer to Brené's inquiry is this: Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity are all supportive of us living in Brené's framework, BIG.

What boundaries need to be in place for me to be in my integrity so I can be generous in my interpretation of the behavior of others?

And seriously, if you'd like a master class on the concept of BIG, LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODES LINKED ABOVE.

We Made Something For You

[And by "we," I mean Loretta.]

Maybe you're thinking or feeling, "Sure, BIG sounds interesting to me, and I want to learn more about boundaries, but I'm not sure where to begin." No worries! You can begin with a small bite by reading about the five-week on-demand online course that Loretta has curated for you called Small Bites: Saying No.

And after reading it, if you're thinking or feeling, "Huh, I want to take the next step on my boundary journey," then go get started in the course.

Friend, I get it. Saying NO and boundary work is HARD... and also, sitting in resentment and/or frustration and/or anger is also HARD. Seriously, how does that dirty diaper of resentment feel?

When you take an offering with us, we are here with you, along with a community of other people who are also trying to figure stuff out. How might it feel to do this work in a supportive community?

All we're missing is you.

I sincerely hope to see or hear from you soon.

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