What are your rules?

The rules! They govern our behavior, defining what may or may not be done in a given context. Rules can be explicit or implied. When a sign says NO PARKING, that’s an explicit rule. When I do something because I think I’m supposed to, not because anyone said so, that’s an implied rule.

Implied rules are tricky. They aren’t talked about, so they can remain unstated for ages without anyone confirming their validity. For example, I might create an implied rule about being candid with my boss: I’m not supposed to tell my boss if I am frustrated with her behavior since it’s not my place to tell my boss what to do. All the while, my boss might actually prefer my feedback over silence. Without a conversation, who knows?

I was reminded of rules when my wife’s friend visited our house. Before she came inside, she asked, “What are your rules?” I loved it. This friend was doing her part to turn our implied rules into explicit rules. It’s impossible to know what each person’s expected behavior is, especially in a pandemic. By asking the clarifying question, she helped everyone get on the same page. And when there was something we didn’t cover, like how our expected behavior might change with a new situation, she simply asked again, “Are there any rules I should know about here?”

We can use this approach in every relationship, asking questions like:

  • I’ve been assuming I should X. Is that right?
  • What’s your preference with Y?
  • Have we changed anything about how we handle Z?

Let’s clarify more rules. We might find it liberating.


This is Max’s note—an every-so-often message from Lessonly’s CEO about learning, leadership, and Better Work. Sign up below to subscribe via email. No spam, we promise!

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