Jan 12, 2024

The most respectful way

The “Most Respectful Interpretation” model has sneaked into the remote working culture. It explains that you are supposed to interpret every message in the best possible light, believing the sender had only the best intentions.   

While at its core, MRI aims to foster a positive environment by encouraging people to assume good intentions in others, it is overly idealistic and can open the door to abuse, and camouflage a toxic communication culture.

Think about it. You get a message loaded with passive-aggressive jabs, dripping in condescension. Yet, the “Most Respectful Interpretation” expects you to gloss over the toxicity and pretend it’s all wrapped in positivity and goodwill. Why should you warp your perception to find a silver lining? Why should you bend backward to see the ‘good’?

In that sense, MRI is, in many cases, a lazy excuse for people to act like assholes while pretending to be ‘direct’ and ‘candid .’It’s like giving a free pass to a culture where people can lob verbal grenades left and right and then, in some messed-up logic, hold you responsible for getting burned.

While it completely ignores the toxic nature of these messages and unfairly dumps the task of sanitizing their bullshit on you, dressing it up as ‘feedback,’ it also closes the door to engaging in constructive criticism.

Here is the deal: Instead of relying on this Most Respectful Interpretation nonsense, would it be better to focus on teaching people to communicate effectively in the first place?

A good communicator not only picks the correct words but also considers the receiver’s feelings and perspectives. Good communication is about both empathy and holding yourself accountable for your words.

I call this the “Most Respectful Way,” where we consciously strive to communicate in a straightforward and considerate manner. It’s the most basic courtesy we owe to our recipient.

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash