Authentic Jerk or Juggernaut?

Isn’t it strange how some people subconsciously choose isolation over intimacy? I say “subconsciously” because it is seldom our desire to be negatively differentiated from others. Rather, we want to stand out positively in the pack. We might misread intentions or non-verbal cues, or pander to our history as opposed to our potential.

I was recently asked to consider whether people are basically good and trustworthy, or basically unreliable and self-seeking. If the latter is true, then being “true to yourself” – or your heart – would be essentially self-seeking and not empathetic or generous. Or would it? I am not wanting to delve into the religious aspects of the argument (“sinful nature” discussions), but rather the fruit of the paradigm. If we believe people are basically bad, untrustworthy or self-seeking, we are not likely to empower them with information, responsibility or opportunity. Whereas, if we believe that they may choose the “higher way,” even if they were born with a propensity for evil, in my experience, we achieve more. In fact, business thrives, employees are more engaged, and fewer instances of abuse or passive-aggressive behaviour result.

How is this possible? Surely taking precautions, to prevent people from “messing our great business up,” promotes control and sustainable wealth? Apparently not. People, research tells us, do their best work when they feel respected, engaged and fulfilled. They feel like partners, accountable and passionate, and thus become “brand ambassadors”, rather than compliant “workers”.

Whether someone is authentically nice or not, it pays to give him or her the benefit of the doubt, and watch their productivity soar.

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