Admittedly, my grasp has always been tenuous, but I threw out the line in a recent management training, went public. Upped even my own ante. And surprisingly learned I'm not the only one thinks we're more productive if we quit being so realistic.
A thoughtful, intelligent senior manager was regaling a typical work horror -- powerful, egomaniac colleague priding herself on hoarding information, shucking blame, pitting folks against each other, and wreaking general havoc and mayhem. He'd dug his heels deep into the office carpet over a particular battle with her, and while absolutely justified, intransigent & pouty were not his nature. He was unnerved as much by his own behavior as by her's.
So I suggested he pretend like she was a normal person, just engage as if she was the most rational, easy--to-get-along-with colleague imaginable. Act normal and expect she'd do the same. Then see what happens. Worst case, she'd still be a jerk, but at least he'd maintain his integrity. And feel better.
I'm not sure he took my advice. (He's a psychiatrist; flights into imaginary fancy are kinda frowned upon in his business.) But I got lots of other head-nods.
Seems many of us are weary of reality's game. Screw it, we're saying. And not with muffled voices buried in the sand. But with a fledgling recognition that we -- the good, honest, compassionate, kind, decent folk -- actually outnumber those who are greedy, mean, violent, and power-hungry. They've been louder, richer, and sure get more prime-time attention. But we outnumber 'em. By a lot.
So let's pretend -- better yet, imagine & intend & assume -- that our values run the world's show instead. Telling that crappy co-worker, lousy teacher, rude sales clerk, or even the Guantanamo torture-memo authors, the encroaching Taleban insurgents, the Burmese junta, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir & his Darfur genocide, the pesticide executives harassing Michelle Obama about her organic garden ...I'm sorry, that's not how we play this game.