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I advocate never assuming the other person is “damaged” unless you find evidence to the contrary, such as lies, deceit, undermining, and so forth.

I ran into a guy who’s like a porcupine (although I mean no disrespect to Erethizon dorsatum). Every and any approach is treated as a likely attack, creating the immediate need to curl up in a ball and expose painful quills. If you ask, “Why weren’t you at the meeting?” it’s interpreted as, “What are you implying? Do you mean that I shirked my responsibility? Who is saying that? Why would you claim such a thing?” And on and on it goes. If you try to assure him that’s not what you meant and extend a welcoming hand, you get a quill in your hand.

These are the people whose third-grade report card said, “Does not play well with others.”

I have run into damaged people. They are the bigots, the ones who won’t listen, the bullies, the passive/aggressives, the elitists (“I won’t join if she’s in the group”). You can’t help it, it’s just the luck of the draw sometimes.

I believe in tolerance and in forgiveness. But I do not believe—nor have I ever seen it suggested—that in tolerating and forgiving you also allow the transgressor to continue to negatively affect you. You may seek to turn the other cheek, but you only have two cheeks.

I leave porcupines alone. I’m sure they get on just fine by themselves. I just can’t imagine how they mate.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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