Sunday, July 03, 2016

Assume Goodwill

Yesterday I was in line at a department store. The woman in front of me was doing what I usually do while the cashier is ringing up my purchase: removing hangers,  putting things in piles. The cashier reached over and said curtly, "I can do that."

Later, while the cashier rang up my two items, she said, "Thanks for letting me do my job."

I usually remove hangers and, in grocery stores, bag my own items. Cashiers usually thank me. They're happy that they can get a customer through the line quicker. And I'm happier because I have something to do besides stand there being bored.

So what happened with yesterday's cashier? Why was she visibly upset that the customer tried to be nice to her? Who knows. Maybe she has an idiot manager who thinks that cashiers aren't doing their job when customers help. Or maybe she just didn't assume goodwill.

Assume goodwill. I saw that sign on someone's office wall a few years ago, and as I waited for the person to conclude a phone call, I pondered the meaning. Assume goodwill. Then it hit me. It was referring to others' motives. Was that person who was taking the phone call trying to make me look small and unimportant? Or was there an emergency or other reason that the person had to take the call?

The person hung up and apologized. Had I assumed the worst -- that I was being disrespected -- and ripped her a new one -- I wouldn't have had that job very long.

In politics, both governmental and social group politics, I see many instances where deep rifts and lost friendships could have prevented if only the people had seen the sign I saw that day: Assume goodwill.

Think about it. Not everyone is out to get you. Assume goodwill and go from there.

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