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Ditch These 4 Bad Habits to Free a Closed Mind Do you often assume there's a need to take sides? Rid yourself of the propensity for making snap judgments and instead try to understand the players on both sides.

By Susan Steinbrecher

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The way you communicate as a leader will grow significantly when you adopt the following principle: People have positive intentions.

There are rare exceptions, but people for the most part want to be respected and appreciated for their contributions in life.

Yet things don't always go as planned. And who hasn't made a mistake? With this in mind, business leaders should refrain from immediately passing judgment on others and take the time to wrap their thoughts around all aspects of a situation. By becoming more compassionate and giving others the benefit of the doubt, it's possible to gain insight into the causes of any atypical behavior.

To foster a more unbiased approach, tune into your empathetic side. This requires revising certain modes of thinking, such as taking sides in a conflict.

In Heart-Centered Leadership, I discuss the value of not judging or assuming but arriving at an understanding. This is a core principle for anyone in a leadership position to consider and put into practice.

Try to develop healthier habits of mind. Identify and take responsibility for hypercritical tendencies, including the inclination to stereotype and make snap judgments about what people do.

Related: Are You Emotionally Intelligent? It'll Help You Rise Above Failure.

1. Shed resentment.

Many people are quick to jump to conclusions, take sides, hold grudges and remain attached to a judgment of others. They turn to projection and blame. It's not uncommon for people to project onto others what's hidden in their own thoughts.

When you judge harshly, hold on to resentment and assume the worst, this comes out both verbally and nonverbally. Words and actions create impressions that may take on more power over time. When you see your thoughts becoming jaded by a layer of resentment, practice patience and remember to forgive, which is the ultimate antidote to resentment.

2. Gain perspective.

Failing to view circumstances from another person's perspective is short-sighted. This leads to defensive behavior and the belief that someone or some force is behind the strain and difficulties in your life.

Instead of assuming or judging, stop, take a breath and attempt to gain some perspective. Then it's possible to discover that you may be reacting in a knee-jerk fashion. Flex your empathy muscle by asking better questions to get to the core of a matter. "How can I help?" is a simple question that can move mountains.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Stay Engaged and Happy

3. Avoid complaining.

Complaining or reacting first and asking questions later is a trap that many leaders fall into. Be mindful of condemning others without providing positive insight or a collaborative solution. Pause before speaking and consider the impact of voicing your resistance or criticism. It's not your role to be the judge, jury and executioner. The paradoxical dynamic is that the more people stay in judgment, the more harshly others criticize them.

4. Stop postponing support.

When your mind and body are tired and stressed, you're more likely to make harsh judgments and poor decisions. Consider your workload and coping abilities. If you don't schedule time for fitness, social life and family, it's easy to bypass them. An additional benefit for a leader or business owner who practices self-care is that this demonstrates leading by example and encourages associates to do the same.

Making snap judgments and assumptions and being unwilling to understand others affects everyone, personally and professionally. It takes considerable effort but when you become more open-minded, things will shift in a positive way. Consistently making every attempt to understand the behavior of associates, customers, friends and family rather than automatically assuming that you know what happened or what someone else is thinking will yield significant and enduring rewards.

Related: The 10 Unique Soft Skills Employers Desire in New Hires

Susan Steinbrecher

Leadership Consultant and Author

Susan Steinbrecher is CEO of Steinbrecher and Associates in Hurst, Texas, and serves as a management consultant, executive coach, licensed mediator, speaker and leadership advisor. She is the co-author of Heart-Centered Leadership: Lead Well, Live Well and wrote KENSHO: A Modern Awakening.

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