“I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.” Rudyard Kipling
The truth is that it really does save a lot of trouble and bad feeling if we believe the best rather than the worst of people. One of the best stories I’ve read about this subject is ‘Murphy’s plough’:
McGinty, a farmer, needed to plough his field before the dry spell set in, but his own plough had broken.
“I know, I’ll ask my neighbour, farmer Murphy, to borrow his plough. He’s a good man; I’m sure he’ll have done his ploughing by now and he’ll be glad to lend me his machine.”
So McGinty began to walk the three or four fields to Murphy’s farm.
After a field of walking, McGinty says to himself, “I hope that Murphy has finished all his own ploughing or he’ll not be able to lend me his machine…”
Then after a few more minutes of worrying and walking, McGinty says to himself, “And what if Murphy’s plough is old and on its last legs – he’ll never be wanting to lend it to me will he?..”
And after another field, McGinty says, “Murphy was never a very helpful fellow, I reckon maybe he won’t be too keen to lend me his plough even if it’s in perfect working order and he’s finished all his own ploughing weeks ago….”
As McGinty arrives at Murphy’s farm, McGinty is thinking, “That old Murphy can be a mean old fellow. I reckon even if he’s got all his ploughing done, and his own machine is sitting there doing nothing, he’ll not lend it to me just so watch me go to ruin…”
McGinty walks up Murphy’s front path, knocks on the door, and Murphy answers.
“Well good morning Mr McGinty, what can I do for you?” says Murphy.
And McGinty says, with eyes bulging, “You can take your … plough, and you can stick it …”
How easy it is to let our minds imagine that we understand other people’s motives and attitudes when, in reality, we’ve made assumptions with no basis in fact.
Suspicion, mistrust and second guessing are the enemies of a positive, productive workplace. Good interpersonal skills require assertiveness, openness and trust.
A healthy team thrives on trust and respect. When we are in the habit of questioning everyone’s motives and talking behind each other’s backs, the work will suffer and so will the morale in the workplace.