Many of us are familiar with Occam’s Razor: the principle that suggests that when there is more than one explanation for something, the one with the fewest assumptions is more likely to be accurate. Basically – keep it simple.

But perhaps many of us are less familiar with the principle of Hanlon’s Razor. This is a mental model which states that you should never ascribe malice to something which can be explained by neglect or ignorance. In other words, if something bad happens to you, there’s a good chance that it wasn’t done deliberately.

When things go wrong, many of us jump to the conclusion that it’s a conspiracy. Your co-workers are out to get you, your friends are ignoring you, your family is trying to annoy you. But this is rarely the case. Most of the time, when things go wrong, they go wrong by accident.

But when we constantly assume malicious intent, it can have an extremely negative impact on our relationships with people. If, every time something goes wrong at work, you start accusing your co-workers of trying to sabotage you, your relationship with them quickly deteriorates. And of course, we don’t think about the times we’ve annoyed or made life difficult for someone else without even realising it.
By adopting Hanlon’s Razor however, you develop a mindset which is beneficial for building and maintaining relationships. In business and marketing, relationships between customers, consumers, clients, and companies are crucial when it comes to the long-term survival and profitability of organisations.

So, if you ascribe malice to your suppliers when something is late, or to your customers if a post does not get the engagement you though it would, if you assume that they are out to get you or doing it deliberately to hurt your company, then the relationship will be so severely damaged that your business will suffer. If you constantly hound, berate, and accuse your supplier if they are late with one delivery for example, they may well stop working with you which will cause you problems.

And in the end, the chances are that something went wrong, and your supplier is just as annoyed about the late delivery as you are.

Hanlon’s Razor builds stronger relationships. You won’t be annoyed by those around you as much, and vice versa. Business relationships are vital, and you should want to maintain a great relationship will all parts of the supply chain.

Of course, sometimes, people will be malicious and try to mess things up – and this needs to be dealt with. But usually, always jumping to the most damning conclusion or always accusing everyone of being out to get you is a quick way to damage relationships – and the long-term health of your business – irreparably.