Assume Goodwill

I’ve been involved in the bath and body industry since I was 16 years old.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of ways of communicating important
soapmaking information come and go. AOL chat rooms, Yahoo Groups, Forums,
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Ning networks – you name it, there are a lot of
ways to communicate with other people that love soap, soapmaking and all
things having to do with anything and everything you can put on your body.

It is astounding to me with so many forms of communication that we still
manage to misunderstand each other. I have seen more fights start online over
seemingly insignificant things (Are fragrance oils toxic? Is Cold Process
soap inherently better because it’s a more complex process? Hey! I had the
idea to make Watermelon Soap before you did!) end in horribly hurt feelings,
sides taken, friends and communities broken apart.

99% of the time, these end-all-be-all  fights started with a
simple misunderstanding. If the parties involved had been sitting in front
of eachother, they would have figured it out, laughed it off and moved on.
But online, you can’t see body language. You can’t see the twinkle in the
eye when someone’s joshin’ you. And, you can’t be reminded that the person
on the other side of the computer is the same as you – genuinely nice but
like all humans, genuinely flawed.

There’s a phrase I use at least a few times a week when I see
something online that makes me pause. “Assume goodwill. It’s easier.” I
learned this from my Mama when I was very young but like all lessons my Mom
generously shared, it took me about 30 years to figure out that she was not
only right but brilliant!.

So next time you’re online and someone says something you are wondering
about, leaves you out of a conversation or otherwise irritates you to the
point of wanting to lash out, assume goodwill. It’s easier.

Like it? Share it!

Become an email subscriber

Enter your email address below and you will receive all our new posts directly in your email inbox.


  1. says

    Great post Anne-Marie! Life is too short and precious to take it so seriously all the time, especially when it comes to online interaction. People are so quick to take offense and throw egos around in the sake of wanting to “feel” right.

    When you learn not to take things so personally and look on the bright side of things, your days are happier, more joy-filled, and most importantly, less dramatic and chaotic! We all need to return to the components of compassion, goodwill, patience, and understanding in dealing with people again. Thanks for this awesome post!

    • Anne-Marie says

      That phrase “You can be right or you can be happy” definitely applies to so much online…

  2. Tanya says

    It’s what I do Anne-Marie and I have found that it almost always pays off. Even if the other/s involved aren’t acting from goodwill, they will often live up to your expectation of their behaviour :)

    • Anne-Marie says

      And if they’re not acting out of goodwill, if you assume they will, 9 times out of 10, you’ll never know the difference anyways! =)

  3. Stephanie B says

    When the social isn’t so social afterwards…
    I sometimes wonder why we spend so much time behind our computers away from the real life.
    But these are tools that everyone uses and we can’t do without them when having a business. Yes, people forget how to stay nice sometimes. And it isn’t just for soaps…I have Ebay selling experience when buyers always ask questions without saying hello or thanks, as if they were writing a text message… But as you say, let’s keep a positive side. I think that people write faster than they think in today’s world and communication, they just don’t want to waste time. They often don’t realize that they are not polite or nice.

    • Anne-Marie says

      Love your phrase ‘when the social isn’t so social afterwards’ – that definitely is all about the online world sometime.

  4. Allison Kontur says

    My mom always says, “do unto others…as you would have them do unto you.” Wise words right there. Our mom’s sound much alike!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Very much alike =) And how funny that we’re in such similar industries now!

  5. says

    Years ago I managed a very large group of people and had to have quite a few “You can’t hear the tone in emails” meetings. A simple, short answer could be thought of as “they were just so rude!”, when it was just someone who was very busy trying to catch up on emails. I have seen the mis-use of of word become a battle of wills, getting to the point of having to have two people in my office face to face trying to sort it out!

    Yep, in our ever evolving Tech world, I agree we do need to Assume Goodwill!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Face to face is always the way to go whenever there are misunderstandings. I’ve learned my lesson … many times now! =)

  6. says

    It’s such great advice because I’ve seen and felt just how sharp some comments can be. Everyone is here to share and help each other, otherwise why would they bother to even comment? Thank you!

    • Anne-Marie says

      Yeah, I sometimes cringe when I see those comments. They can be brutal and I don’t know if people realize how bad the comments sound, especially if you’re the recipient of the comments!

  7. zjacquelyn says

    Nice reminder, A-M! I, too, was blessed with parents who made this assumption a way of life and that life is so much more calm and enjoyable! When one of us complained about something someone else said or did she would respond “I have never met a person who did not respond to kindness”

    • Anne-Marie says

      I really hit the jackpot with my folks. They are amazing and everything they told me when I was younger is definitely coming true. =) Go figure!

  8. Michele says

    I think we need to hear this often. I’ve seen the “mob mentality” totally take over on soap forums and I think “wow” how can that be? We are all individuals with the same interest here-all trying to learn and share information.

    • Anne-Marie says

      It is amazing how quick people are to forget that we’re all here for the same thing – our love of soap – and I’ve seen some sad things online and it’s just not worth it.

  9. Lori Rodenbush says

    This makes so much sense.

    If people would listen to it, and not always assume the worst right away, I think everyone would be so much happier. Probably a lot less stressed too!

    Had a personal experience along this line is my own life recently. We in the family did eventually get it all straightened out, but we had two weeks (or so) of fighting and very very hurt feelings. If we had followed this “Assume Goodwill. It’s Easier.”
    we could have avoided a LOT of heartache.

    • Anne-Marie says

      Definitely less stressed! =)

      And when it’s family, it’s even harder. I hope you guys are able to repair and move forward quickly. =)

  10. says

    Wonderfully put!

    Things can always be misunderstood online because we can’t see their face or hear their voice.


    • Anne-Marie says

      Exactly – not being able to see faces is HUGE for exacerbating misunderstandings…

  11. says

    I totally agree. Even when someone isn’t being nice, keeping it positive is always a good thing. I tell my girls that it is a lot more difficult to be mean to someone when they are being nice back. It’s always a huge waste of energy to steam about a misinterpretation or a hateful remark. I think I’ve used this one before, but put it in a bubble and let it go!

    • Anne-Marie says

      You are so right – just because someone is being mean to you doesn’t mean you have to be mean back. But, we’re all human so the automatic knee jerk reaction is certainly there to do that! =) We need to train ourselves to do better …

  12. says

    So true! When you work from the assumption that everyone means well, that’s what you start to see, too. Thank you for the reminder, Anne-Marie.

    • Anne-Marie says

      It just feels better when you think people are on your side instead of out to get you =)