(Issue #601) The Hypothesis of Generosity

So, I pulled myself off the too-often-climbed-on ledge of self-righteous upset
and took a deep
breath and waited.


“Where are they?”

Like most craftsmen and service people, when I made the appointment I was given a two-hour block as to when they would arrive at our front door. In this case, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. It was now 4:15 p.m.—and no knock on the door or phone message indicating a late arrival.

“Great, another company I cannot trust.” My thoughts starting taking me down an unfortunately too-often-traveled rabbit hole.

I called the contractor’s office and was told the service techs had gotten tied up at a previous appointment and were now on their way to our location. Which, given the traffic, meant they would not arrive until after 5 p.m. I almost canceled the appointment.

Then I remembered the hypothesis of generosity I had recently read about in Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.

The gist: “What is the most generous assumption you can make about this person’s intentions or what this person said?” Or in my case, what the person did not do—show up on time.

So, I pulled myself off the too-often-climbed-on ledge of self-righteous upset and thought, “OK. Perhaps the last job for these service people was more than they were told. Maybe somebody got injured. Let me give them the benefit of the doubt.” I took a deep breath and waited. (Not easy for me.)

When they arrived (about an hour late), I noticed the journeyman limping as he walked to the door. He apologized and we reviewed what he was to do in our home. The apprentice brought in the tools and they went about the repair.

Rather than grill them or give them a stony-faced reception, I thanked them for coming and extended generosity: “Sounds like a tough day for you.”

The response, “You have no idea. It seems that all the jobs today escalated. What was supposed to be two or three tasks turned into eight or ten.”  I listened. Did not judge. And did not minimize what he and his helper had been through.

That led to my acknowledgement of the limp and then to an explanation about a significant injury to his ankle years ago that, on this particular day, was acting up on him. More listening. Generosity.

They finished the job in a respectful, competent, and polite manner. Cleaned up and departed with tired yet authentic smiles and a thank you for my business to their company.

Extending generosity does not give license to people to crap on us and disrespect us. In fact, Brown states, “We could all stand to be more generous, but we also need to maintain our integrity and our boundaries.” (page 122)

I maintained my boundaries in the above example. I expected quality work, respectful behavior, and follow-up information about the job. The two men did their part. There was no escalation of ill will or the lingering emotions of a trying day. What, after all, would that have accomplished other than self-righteous posturing?

The hypothesis of generosity helped lead to a healthy and cortisol-lowering end to the day.


Video recommendation for the week.

Listen to Brené Brown speak about the importance of empathy and connection in this short video clip.


Make it a wonderful week and HTRB has needed.

You will find my latest book, Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit, in
eBook ($2.99) and paperback ($9.99) format. Click 

My dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story. Please, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019print and e-book). Available on Amazon. More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at the above link.
  • Stories about Teaching: No Need to be an Island (2017, print and e-book)Available on Amazon. One college’s new faculty onboarding program uses the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos (see the link above) would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

You can find my podcasts (all fifty episodes) here.

You will find more about me at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2021. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®
Atlantic Beach, Florida

About stevepiscitelli

Community Advocate-Author-Pet Therapy Team Member
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1 Response to (Issue #601) The Hypothesis of Generosity

  1. Pingback: (Issue #605) A Blogger’s Retrospective for 2021 | The Growth and Resilience Network®

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