Johnnie Moore

Farmer Joe

Why we should be careful about the stories we invent about each other (and advice for teams)
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

A joke shared by a therapist with lessons for teams

Transcript of this video:

The story is told of farmer Joe, who is approaching harvest time when his tractor breaks down. And because Joe is broke and the repairs to the tractor will cost a lot of money, this is gonna be a real problem.

He’s not gonna be able to gather in his harvest, and that’s gonna have a really bad effect on his cashflow for the coming year. And he worries about this and he thinks about it, but he wonders to himself if perhaps he could go to farmer Frank on the adjoining farm and borrow his tractor, because Frank’s crops are on a slightly different time cycle.

So he sets off across the fields, determined to ask farmer Frank to borrow the tractor. But as he travels, he thinks of strange incidents from the past like that time when Frank seemed a bit distracted or even a bit off-hand in the market place.

And then he goes, oh no, but he dismisses that story out of mind and determines to keep going. And then he thinks about another story that he’d heard about farmer Frank losing his temper with someone.

But he thinks, “No, no, I’ll keep going,” and he trudges across the field, sort of moving between determination to ask and then remembering these strange stories and incidents that might give the impression Frank might not accept the opportunity to lend a tractor.

Anyway, eventually, he reaches farmer Frank’s house, taps on the door, farmer Frank opens the door, and farmer Joe says “You keep your tractor! I never wanted to borrow it in the first place!”

And this joke was told by a therapist running a training group I was in many years ago to illustrate what therapists have a fancy term for, co-dependency.

Essentially, what happens when we allow our fantasies of what other people are like and how they might respond to drive our behaviour, often in ways that makes our fantasy come true.

We actually create the resistance that we imagine. And I think of this story quite a lot whenever I’m getting, you know, if I’m preparing to for example host an event, I’ll often hear a lot of these stories about what people at the event might be like, how they might be difficult.

And if you’re not careful, you allow these guesses about people’s personalities to occupy a lot of your time. And actually, I’m not sure it’s very helpful.

It’s probably better to be more present to what is happening in front of you, and rushing a bit less and not trying so hard to take care of other people’s imagined needs, so that you’ve got more space to pay attention to the signals you are getting from them in the moment.

Photo by Kerin Gedge on Unsplash

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