Jim Meehan, British psychologist, poet and amateur philosopher, was asked by one of his mentors, eminent American psychologist Dr. William E. Hall, to consider what attitudes are essential to the establishment of trust, which Hall regarded as being at the heart of all good human relationships.
Meehan came up with ten words in the form of two promises that provide the title for this book, “I mean you no harm; I seek your greatest good.”
The book starts as Meehan attempts to answer the question he is often asked, “Where do these words come from?” Born in Liverpool in the same hospital and same year as Paul McCartney, Meehan uses McCartney’s account of the composition of his bestselling song, “Yesterday,” to describe a similar experience that gave birth to his ten-word mantra, which captures the heart of trust. Meehan offers some possible biographical contributing factors. Beginning with a section aptly titled, “My Yesterdays,” he explores some early childhood relationships and experiences in Liverpool toward the end and shortly after the Second World War and investigates his adolescence, which was spent mainly in Birmingham, England’s second largest city. He then turns his attention to the influence of five mentors who definitely meant him no harm and sought his greatest good to examine how instrumental they could have been in the formulation of the words.
Having exhausted his search for the origin of the expression, he then discusses the meaning of trust and how the two promises, when exchanged with other people, start a journey toward total mutual trust. Meehan defines different forms of trust, draws on the views of certain philosophers, psychologists and exemplars of trust and addresses the current global crisis of trust or, rather, lack of trust. He also includes a few anecdotes that describe the meaningfulness of the ten words to others.
At the beginning of his account, Meehan explains how these two promises have developed legs of their own and have traveled widely since first being written in 1997. He finishes the book by posing the question, “Where are the words going?” Certainly, the book could be said to have given the ten words some wings or at least some more legs. In his epilogue, he provides attempts he has made to catch the essentials of total mutual trust and related concepts in verse.