The Totem-pole of Goodness
We were inching along Outer Ring Road in slow moving traffic, and there was a loud bang. A car rammed into the rear bumper of our car, denting it badly. The lady had the good grace to move over to the side of the road, and apologize profusely. She was obviously shaken, and I took her name and number and told her to go along, and drive carefully. Even as a crowd was collecting around us, not traumatizing her further by not discussing modalities of settling compensation for the damage I suffered, seemed to be the natural good thing to do.
The incident seemed to indicate that we are dealing with good people, and that encouraged me to call them up the next day to discuss the modalities of compensation. We got a quotation from the car manufacturer’s authorized garage for the repair works, and sent it across to them, to start the dialogue. That is when the cookie crumbled.
They decided to go to other garages to check out lower quotes, and then began to negotiate with us in right earnest. This continued even after we agreed that they pay only the difference that our own car insurance does not cover. I was getting increasingly disappointed with the way the conversation was going. It was my car, and the fault was all theirs. Under the circumstances, unsolicited advice on where to get the car fixed, and negotiating the amount they will be willing to pay seemed a bizarre thing to do.
My Totem-pole of Goodness was telling me to get out of this transaction quickly. I simply accepted whatever they offered. After all, it does take two people to negotiate.
Confucius points out that whenever two people meet, only one of two things happen. “If you are better than me”, he says, “I want to be like you. If I am better than you, I think of myself.” That should mean that with every interaction with others, we are assessing our respective positions on the Totem-pole of Goodness.
There are times when somebody disappoints you with his/her behavior, and you simply want to switch off, move away or ignore that person. When the person consistently disappoints you, you build barriers and cut that person off from your circle. This is because you have now received confirmation about that person being lower than you on the Totem-pole of Goodness. When the person who was nasty with you comes back to make amends, he/she improves his/her position on the Totem-pole of Goodness.
What happens when majority of the people you meet turn out to be lower than you on the Totem-pole of Goodness? Edmund Burke says: “When bad men combine, The good must associate;”
Remember, the Good must associate. Look for those who are higher than you on the Totem-pole of Goodness. Join hands with them. Simultaneously, put distance between you and those who are lower than you on the Totem-pole of Goodness.
The reason we beat a hasty retreat away from the people responsible for the damage inflicted on my car was the realization that they are below us on the Totem-pole of Goodness. You don’t need to know where you are on the Totem-pole of goodness. Just be wary of those who you think are lower than you on the Totem-pole.
Say your silent goodbyes to that unreasonable boss, shifty colleague, suspicious team member, dubious uncle, dishonest neighbour, untrustworthy subordinate, deceitful partner, devious supervisor, arbitrary maid, difficult relative, capricious teammate, self-obsessed competitor, and that bad-tempered manager.
Go out of your way to join hands with your caring parents, unfailing spouse, attentive brother, that diligent coworker, reliable associate, trustworthy partner, dependable collaborator, assiduous CEO, persistent salesperson, industrious accountant, conscientious sister, thorough teacher, meticulous assistant, and that consistent performer.