Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence. — Origin unknown, often attributed to Robert J. Hanlon

When someone is making our life difficult, even in a minor way, we often jump right to a satisfying conclusion:

This person is trying to sabotage me!

Feels good, right? We have the moral high ground, and now we get to feel righteous anger (the best kind!). The thing is, true sabotage is pretty rare.

That colleague who’s downright belligerent in meetings? He’s probably not trying to bring the entire project to a screeching halt. Maybe he feels threatened by big changes, or maybe his wife has cancer. It might be incompetence, it could be fear, but it’s almost certainly not malice.

When we remember that no one’s trying to sabotage us, it frees us up to be compassionate instead. Most people are trying their best under the circumstances, and getting angry isn’t very useful anyway. Much better to show patience, understanding, and compassion. Even when we don’t feel like it.

Especially when we don’t feel like it.