When we think about generosity, we usually think about giving things, including money. Having a generous nature when it comes to objects is helpful in a relationship, but I’m thinking of a wider definition here. Yes, I want to be able to borrow your extra umbrella, but more than that, I’m hoping you will be generous in the way you think about me and approach our relationship with each other. Generosity of spirit takes many forms.

Believing the best

“I will never know if people are doing the best they can or not but when I assume they are, it makes my life better,” says researcher Brené Brown, quoting her husband. In her book Rising Strong, Brown suggests that we use a “hypothesis of generosity” by asking ourselves “what is the most generous assumption about this person’s intention or what they said?”

Using this hypothesis, I can believe that, when my husband doesn’t pick up my prescription as he said he would, it’s because he forgot, rather than that he’s tired of living with someone who has a chronic illness. The latter may also be true, but using a generous interpretation leaves me happier and leads to a more peaceful home life.

Offering forgiveness

When a friend does mess up, if you are quick to forgive you can more easily return to a state of lovingkindness. This is the reason for the kind promise “I will love without keeping score.” Holding a grudge or keeping track of past wrongs keeps us from living in peace and harmony with one another.

Offering praise

Telling others around you how they lighten your world offers them encouragement and makes you feel better because of your positive impact. Encouraging each other and celebrating our successes and blessings together gives us shared memories and brings us closer.

Giving without expectation

The other half of “not keeping score” is to give gifts or do favors for one another without expecting anything in return. This way, we free ourselves of potential disappointment or resentment.

Offering time and attention

The most transformative way we can be generous with each other is to listen deeply and fully, leaving off our own concerns to focus on the other an attempt to understand their world. Deep listening is a gift to both the speaker and the listener.

Generosity in all its forms brings spaciousness and tenderness to relationships. It brings us closer together and allows love to flourish.