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    « Worry | Main | Coachable »

    Relationship Do's and Don'ts

    People who know me know I'm not big on rules. It's not that I'm against rules. I just think they have very limited value.

    I prefer understandings, which are like rules, but broader and more abstract. Understandings help us grasp why the rule is a good idea.

    Here's an example of what I mean.

    Rule: Thou shalt not kill. (It almost implies, "Gee, it would be nice if you could. Problem is you're not allowed to.")

    Understanding: Killing may seem like an efficient way to deal with opposition, but it isn't. Makes things worse. It has side-effects and consequences that render it almost useless. Killing usually makes more trouble, not less.

    Understanding why something is a bad idea makes it easier to let it go. And as we all know, prohibition just doesn't work very well. It often has the opposite effect.

    This being said, I was thinking about the way I used to make a joke out of the way our culture uses rules in my public presentations. I would sometimes wrap up a point by saying, "So Rule #47 for happy relationships is...."

    And no sooner would I do that than someone would ask me if I could send them the complete list -- rules #1-46. There were no rules 1-46, but if there were, then rules #1-4 for happy relationships might go something like this:

    Rule #1. Be more fun to be around. If this isn't possible, start by being less unpleasant to be around. This will be more rewarding for both yourself and others, and might actually attract people to you.

    Rule #2. Try not to criticize, try not to complain, or at least do it very sparingly. Use encouragement instead. Especially avoid giving criticism disguised as "constructive criticism." Exception: it is sometimes OK to criticize someone the person is paying you to do so and you do it very gently. Just don't be surprised if you never see them again.

    Rule #3. Try not to blame anyone else for anything you're thinking, doing, saying or feeling. It's not their fault, and it just makes you feel powerless.

    Rule #4. Refrain from doing anything in relationship that you would feel a need to justify, or else go ahead and do it and let go of needing to justify it. This one might need a little more explanation...


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