In the corporate world, there’s a catchphrase called assume positive intent. It means when you ask your co-worker to bring color copies of your presentation to the board meeting and he shows up with a gray-scaled version printed on hot pink cardstock, you assume he misunderstood your request instead of automatically jumping to the conclusion that he is a saboteur who is trying to get you fired.

It’s a handy term that helps you try to see the best in people. It recognizes that things may not go well, but the person with the questionable behavior probably had their heart in the right place.

Like the woman at the store the other day. I hadn’t been to the mall in ages, but the combination of unexpected free time and a craving for just a little pre-COVID normalcy led to one natural conclusion: 15 minutes of retail therapy. Normally the folks at the mall have the misfortune of seeing me in a T-shirt and sweat pants — a style now known as coronavirus chic (who knew I was a trend-setter?) — but this outing was special so I busted out (and nearly bust out of) actual pants with a zipper and button and everything.

I felt adorable in my sunny yellow top and best pair of mom jeans, so I wasn’t surprised at all when the woman cheerily approached me with a smile so big I could see it through her mask. “I love your outfit!” she gushed. “It looks so … comfortable.”

I don’t know what hurt more – the gutting comment or the waistband on my higher-than-high rise denim cutting right through the top o’ the muffin. I do know that neither intended harm – the woman was giving a sincere (albeit misguided) compliment, and the pants were under just as much duress as me without the benefit of all the late night nachos I enjoyed during the stay-at-home portion of the pandemic.

Assuming positive intent allowed me to smile back at the woman through my mask and lie, “It is really comfortable. Thank you!”

You can assume positive intent and presume that something came from a good place and still recognize it isn’t good. Such is the case with many rules surrounding delivery of medical care in the State of Idaho.

For example, there is a rule that specifies that if a patient is seeing a physician for the first time via telehealth (aka the patient is in one location and the physician is in another location and the visit is occurring by video conference), then the physician can only prescribe certain medications if the patient is physically in a hospital or clinic at the time of the appointment. The patient is home in his jammies? No controlled substance for you! The physician can be home in her jammies no problem — but heaven forbid the person who actually needs medical care be tucked safe and sound in bed with a cup of hot Tang and a bowl of noodle soup on their nightstand.

There very well may be a dozen or more good reasons that rule was put into place. I can’t divine a single one, but smarter people than me could no doubt rattle some off and they would all make perfect sense. But do you know what else makes perfect sense? Letting the person in need of a telemedicine visit get it from the safety and comfort of their own home, prescription included.

Idaho Governor Brad Little temporarily made that and other improvements possible with the more than 125 agency rules he waived by executive order on March 23 and 18 more he suspended on April 2 as part of the state’s COVID-19 response. Last week he dropped the whole temporary part of the temporary order.

“Our loosening of healthcare rules since March helped to increase the use of telehealth services, made licensing easier, and strengthened the capacity of our healthcare workforce – all necessary to help our citizens during the global pandemic,” he said. “We proved we could do it without compromising safety. Now it’s time to make those healthcare advances permanent moving forward.”

It’s fine to assume positive intent about why there were so many rules in the first place. You can optimistically believe they came from a good place and also acknowledge that it’s A-OK for them to go away.

It’s also fine to go back to wearing sweatpants at the mall; after all, if you’re going to look comfortable you might as well actually be comfortable.

Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.

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