Are you someone who gives others the benefit of the doubt? Do you cut them some slack, knowing anyone can be a victim of circumstances?

That’s a good way to behave. Lots of stressful issues can be impacting the person in front of you. Try to use a little mercy instead of judgment.

It’s easy to feel angry when someone owes us money. Or we might gossip about a person who looks a little disheveled.

“I’ve been a landlord for 29 years,” says a Boston businessman we’ll call Alan. “I’ve met every type of person on the planet. I’ve been generous, and I’ve had to take some people to court. But it pays to err on the side of mercy.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Alan says that, of course, no person in a business deal should be a fool. After all, some individuals do take advantage of others. But, he insists, finding out more about a person’s true story is good.

Asking questions, offering to help and staying calm help heal a situation.

Try these tactics:

  • Find out the true picture, if you can. For example, a fifth grade teacher told us, “It pays to ask people to open up.” A boy in her class kept stealing money from the other kids. But, she finally learned the boy’s family had food insecurity issues.
  • Don’t have knee-jerk reactions. If you can stay calm, people will place more trust in you. Even if you have to call for police intervention, try to remain cool and articulate. No situation can be managed without some mature conversation in the mix.
  • The crazier things are, the calmer you should be. Sure, it’s tough to deal with two people arguing loudly or acting out rage. But, if you start yelling as well, it’s tough to de-escalate the argument.

“My daughter had been living with an abusive husband for 10 years,” says a police officer we’ll call Daniel. “It’s unbelievable, but I didn’t know this. She hid it well. Instead of ordering her to leave him, I asked her to move back home with her two children. Then, I added that we’d find help for her husband later on.”

Daniel says he felt weird offering mercy for the abusive son-in-law, but over time, it worked. “My daughter’s husband is my grandchildren’s father,” Daniel points out. “Helping him eventually helped them.”

An accountant we’ll call Tim says one of his clients was in a financial mess recently. “My client wanted me to lie to the IRS, taking business deductions she wasn’t entitled to. Instead of judging her, I asked her to tell me what was going on.”

It turns out that Tim’s client was being robbed blind. She told Tim, “My son is on drugs, and he stole from me the past two years. If I have to pay a lot of taxes, I’ll go bankrupt.”

Tim assured her they could work things out. He met with a tax attorney and figured out a plan.

“Lying to the IRS could have landed both of us in trouble,” says Tim. “But, when people have big problems, they get crazy and desperate.”

Very few people enjoy getting themselves into a mess. That’s why mature adults should at least offer some insight. Or, if all else fails, call a professional to help the person in trouble.

“There is always a way to do the right thing,” Tim insists. “More people need to look beyond a crisis so a bad situation can be dialed back. Jumping in to criticize only makes things worse.”

Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, “Cooling Stress Tips.” She is also executive director of USA Wellness Café at usawellnesscafe.org. Emma Hopson is a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist. ©2020 Person to Person. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.