Best Advice Indra Nooyi Ever Got

Posted by Nipun Mehta on Jul 14, 2008
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Indra Nooyi  -- PepsiCo's CEO, listed in Time's Top 100 influentials around the globe -- was recently asked by Fortune magazine: What was the best advice you ever got?  She had a great response:

My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From him I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you're angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don't get defensive. You don't scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, "Maybe they are saying something to me that I'm not hearing." So "assume positive intent" has been a huge piece of advice for me.

In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they're saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, "Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they're reacting because they're hurt, upset, confused, or they don't understand what it is I've asked them to do." If you react from a negative perspective - because you didn't like the way they reacted - then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, "Hey, wait a minute, maybe I'm wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort."

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Comments (59)

  • venu rao deva wrote ...

    the article is very good.......it has inspired me a lot.....great.....

  • Steve Crisp wrote ...

    I wholeheartedly agree with this mindset.

    There is often "miscommunication" which is usually based on mis-interpretting what the other person is trying to say.

    By thinking the worst of that person, the relationship quickly spirals out of control. But by thinking the best of that other individual, any poorly chosen words or ill-timed remarks will not be misconstrued and magnified.

    My advice, until repeatedly proven otherwise ... always think the best of others, and ascribe to them benevolent motivations.

  • suma wrote ...

    It is very much true. I have always tried to be positive for every approach and it helps.

  • Ruchi wrote ...

    an eye opener...

  • chitra patnaik wrote ...

    Very true.When you see positiveness of the person half of your time and energy is saved.your wisdom is in a calm position to think properly

  • me wrote ...

    I'm sure it's much easier when you're raised in a positive environment to think that way. But years and years of abuse makes it next to impossible to change.

    I do not know one human being who is not their childhood. Obviously this woman is hers. I happy she had it.

  • Steve De Quintal wrote ...

    Wonderful advice, just what I needed to hear today

  • Dr. Parveen Bhatia wrote ...

    "Respond ,don't react".

  • sethi wrote ...

    Very true.With positive intent you create positive relationship with the other person.

  • emk wrote ...

    Good advise indeed - however, I wonder how much patience is fair to expect of oneself when repeatedly pinged by another person's aggressive approach? Will a consistently patient, focused response really make a difference or will the aggressive behaviors continue?

  • Aurelia wrote ...

    I indeed needed this advice today after losing it in a class of teenagers in college as a few of them were being defiant..I almost decided to quit teaching ( it is part-time)..But now I think I will try and take a positive stance

  • Nitin wrote ...

    When you are doing good for other person and other person cheats you, than How can you be positive?You have to draw a line somewhere.

  • SUSAN wrote ...

    As long as you are fullfilling your destiny on the this earth ,and treating people with kindness, you will be honoring your spirit, and when you honor your spirit you honor God.

  • Yolanda Jones wrote ...

    Thank you for your article I neede a positive input right now

  • Zee wrote ...

    This is very true. It's also called empathy, if you develop your empathetic skills you find that no matter how ugly a person can be on the inside, you can identify with where they come from & thus can protect yourself from reacting by having this understanding.

    Unfortunately, it's developed by intense self introspection and getting in touch with self first.

    First, be aware of what feelings others invoke in you.

    Secondly, find out where those feelings come from.

    Once you are in touch with that, you automatically can identify with others actions, mostly because you've been there.

    You don't have to tolerate, but acknowledge within self that lack of knowledge on the other side is causing this person to be this way.

  • Moyra wrote ...

    I'd like to extend this idea of positive intent to driving and sharing the road. Whenever someone cuts me off, runs a light, etc., I just assume that they got distracted, as we all do from time to time, and that they didn't see me, the light, or whatever else. This saves a lot of wasted energy being angry at people we will never meet, for transgressions that, in the long run, will never really impact our lives at all.

  • Katherine E Cline wrote ...

    This is wonderful advice. Especially for me, as I am an RN and work with all levels of medical staff and patients & their families. When you work with people who are in pain on a daily basis, you've got to maintain a positive perspective! Thank you for posting.

  • Amritlal wrote ...

    Food for the soul

  • Amritlal wrote ...

    Food for the soul

  • Deepa wrote ...

    This one is amazing...one step in becoming a good individual and leading a good life!!

  • Susan wrote ...

    This is very important, and very helpful, because it is so easy to assume the worst. But I have found that if I start by assuming the best, then I am more open to possibilities and options.

    One comment asked, how patient should we be when someone does us wrong? That is also a good question, and I think the answer is, we must go in the door assuming people's best intentions. Sometimes they will prove us wrong, and we must be honest about it, but we can choose how we approach the world.

  • Ganoba wrote ...

    An important aspect of the story is that Indira gives credit to the source, in this case her father, of the advice. this is one of the ways in which positive intent is developed. Meditation, practiced regularly, is one other.

  • SW wrote ...

    I definately agree to a certain extend. There is only so much positive thinking one can have.

  • Pancho Ramos wrote ...

    Never give up! ;-)

    If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.

    In solidarity,
    Pancho

  • Nnamdi wrote ...

    Listening to successful people helps one to learn tips that make for success.She is great.

  • Andrea wrote ...

    My motto is "what you focus on grows larger." So true.

  • mitu wrote ...

    this is wonderfully on point!! thank you so much. it's a good reminder, when i end up feeling hurt, when the other may not have intended that at all!!! :)

  • rachna wrote ...

    So true, positive thinking sends positive messages, as a result things start going in the right direction. Such a good advice, specially if it comes from a parent.

  • Sherri wrote ...

    Wonderful way to live life. Even when others can't seem to find the positive, we still need to have a positive attitude. Our attitude is our choice and the "choice rules the chooser".

  • Merle wrote ...

    Thanks for the sharing I hope others will get the uplifting messages as I did.

  • Christian wrote ...

    That is so very true, it really makes a huge difference when one looks at another person with a heart filled with love, and assumes the same in the other person. In the long run regardless there is no other way

  • sathsath (YASHESH WORAH} wrote ...

    Chris Steve has said sage words,do not sit over judgements on other persons attitude or in any kind of negation,unless he/she proves wrong.In todays stressed living often mind looses to call of tongue and body,in thoughtless condition, So keep this margin of error,and i assure of smooth interaction and a confident behavior, always
    I had read somewhere which is quite relevant here,a paster has written in a very popular book "each time u tell me who u are"may be our psyche changes too often

  • EDWARD wrote ...

    very nice and fruitful lesson for me

  • kishor wrote ...

    Nice

  • Adomako Kankam William wrote ...

    this is really an eye opener.It is always good to listen to others well before acting.

  • Alyce wrote ...

    What a truly wonderful nugget of truth! It is a discipline, as most people "react" to "feelings." A lot of wisdom here!! Thanks for sharing it with all of us!!

  • venkatesh wrote ...

    Absolutely right.We lived in campuses for about 15 years. People have differing opinions; added to it are the family standings with official positions.For each confrontation, we looked positively to diffuse the situation and we enjoyed living in the campus. Intially we appeared loosers but ultimately we lots of friends.

  • Chet wrote ...

    Humanism is a value earn by thousand of years experience done by our ancestors.We should always keep it mind, our contribution for the society should alwas be greater than ourselves.Thanks
    chet_lal@yahoo.com

  • Laura wrote ...

    beautifully put and very succinct. but what does one do with the emotionality of realisation, excusing others, and often not getting ones needs met.
    communication is hard. and being understood harder -which is where judgement often serves us well. though the fire, the volatile gap, is where we can lose ourselves

  • Jimmyox wrote ...

    I agree that positive thinking is a powerful motivator, and to take the view that people have positive intentions in the things they do is a warm, comfy way to tolerate the everyday challenges we are faced with. However, to think that all people's intentions are positive is pretty naive. People's intentions are for the most part self serving from my experience. This doesn't necessarily mean it is wrong or bad. Instinctively we do what protects us and allows us to survive. I agree that looking for the positive in people's intentions is a better way to view the world, but don't for a second believe that everyone has good intentions or you will leave yourself vulnerable. Certainly, you wouldn't want your children to venture into the world believing all is great out there. You certainly want them to be defensive enough to protect themselves from those who would abuse their trust.
    Positive thinking is great, but take a second or two to ask yourself what is motivating someone to do what they are doing.

  • Douglas Ofori-Boateng wrote ...

    Facial expression and movement of the body is always a revealation of ones mindset and intentions. If you always think positive about people it always brings positive reflection to your body.

  • RACHNA wrote ...

    true!

  • nanzala wrote ...

    you know what, that is the bomb! positives always bring out positives, so that means you be you in positivity. thanks, ahsante sana

  • kim wrote ...

    it is a best advice i ever heard it is difficult to have positive intent to others but we have to because what you are doing to others also others are doing to you as you do

  • priya wrote ...

    nice to see that lot of opinions here,,,,
    taking a moment to respond to a person saves lot....

  • jp wrote ...

    exactly what I needed to hear today.. have a friend who seems to have the ability to push my buttons the wrong way and I think approaching him with this mindset will help a great deal! thx..

  • Wardoyo wrote ...

    it's really great advice that makes me have better horison and better points of view to this world. the mindset that we should plant everytime

  • kiran wrote ...

    Though it is a tough thing to do,but it is worth it and at times the only sensible option. A wiseman said that,"Between stimulus and response,there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." I've tried it and it really works!

  • Hetty wrote ...

    True: This will make the world a better place to live in... Thanks, very inspiring

  • a jagan mohan reddy wrote ...

    yes be positive always dont expect others to change see if you can accommodate others

  • Kathleen wrote ...

    Well put! I am reminded of one of my favorite authors - Don Miguel Ruiz in "The Four Agreements". They are 'Be impeccable with your word' 'Don't take anything personally' 'Don't make assumptions' and 'Always do your best'. Wonderful, straight forward and simple.

  • Girija Manohar wrote ...

    I agree with Jimmyox .This article is excellent.I am a fan of indra howeer there is a limt for everything.We try to be good but we will not know how the opposite person is.So i think jimmyox is clear in saying this.

    Thank you

  • Swapnil Gaurshettiwar wrote ...

    I always try to be positive...but sometimes you can't...the points depicted by jimmyox is really true...sometimes u cant resist urself.

  • KETAN RINDANI wrote ...

    Very true. My fsther always says that when there is an argument and the other party refuses to relent, just say okay...Don't stretch it too much. Kepping mum can bring wisdom that will help you comprehend things better--without the red smoke of rage blocking your understanding.

  • joseph wrote ...

    It si true because two wrongs can not make a right.

  • Vaidehi wrote ...

    Assuming positive intent is actually the core of keeping 'that' spark alive through a life time... It is indeed the essence of being...

  • George wrote ...

    Maybe that's why she's got blinders on to Massimo and all the stuff he's doing at Pepsi

  • Megan wrote ...

    I always stay positive and think the best for every situation. I'm working on the family. I found that the book the secret really helped me. I think Indra Nooyi should write an inspiring book. She is such a good hearted person!

  • Matt Gift wrote ...

    Indra Nooyi is truly an inspiration to women all around the world, particularly in Asia, as she not only revamped PepsiCo and upped their market presence, she also has her own sense of style when conducting business. I believe this could be due to her being a woman, as the decisions she made for PepsiCo are always well rounded.