Yesterday I had an interesting incident occur that reminded me just how our worldviews can skew our actions. This has a tie to the business world, so hang with me.

Once upon a time

As is often the case, I was walking out of the grocery store with a ginormous box of diapers (Pampers Baby Dry, if you must know), and a random guy walks up to me, commenting on the size of the box. I let it slip that I have twin girls, and he started a long, well-rehearsed story about how he was a long way from home and trying to get back to his own kids. I could quickly see where the conversation was going, so I told him I didn’t have any cash on me. He responded that he didn’t need cash, just some gas in his vehicle to get home. I told him to meet me across the parking lot at the gas station and I would fill up my gas can for him.

When we got over there I took the can out of my trunk and filled it for him. I walked over to where he was parked and said, “Here, keep the can, too. I hope that helps you get home.” His response will forever be embedded in my brain. He said, “If I had known that all I would get out of talking with you was $3 in gas, I wouldn’t have bothered.

Now, up until that point I assumed the best about this guy. I assumed he was telling the truth. I assumed he really needed help. I assumed he would accept whatever help I could offer.

At that point I knew that pretty much everything he’d told me so far was probably a lie. He wanted me to fill his tank for him, and I wasn’t willing to do that. Instead of being thankful for what I had offered, he sneered at it.

The business lesson

Some people automatically assume the worst. If I was one of those people, I’d have shut the guy out long before offering to help. However, there was a chance that he really needed some assistance. By assuming the best and offering what I could, I took a chance at helping someone who might have needed it. And the next time I run across someone who needs help, I won’t let this instance change my reaction in the slightest.

Assume the best. Give what you can. If the other person accepts it, great! If the other person does not, walk away (as I did) knowing that you did everything you could to do the right thing.

What about you? Ever worked with someone who was perpetually looking for the worst in people? What was it like?

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