Transforming Rules into Guides

I ran into some of my rules last week… you know…. rules like “I must always be able to think of a solution when someone asks me for help.” Obviously that’s not possible, but rules don’t work that way. Most of our rules were cemented into place before we were adults, so they are not always totally reasonable.

I learned along time ago that you can’t really get rid of these rules, but it is possible to soften them a bit. I learned this process from Jerry Weinberg, and he learned it from Virginia Satir.

1. State the rule.

2. Acknowledge the rule and it’s usefulness for the proper situation.

3. Modify the rule to give a choice.

4. Modify the rule to make it a possibility, not a certainty.

5. Switch from a universal to a non-universal.

6. Make the guideline more specific.

So for my rule I’d try:

1. I must always think of a solution when someone asks me for help.

2. Well, the ability to think of solutions has served me well, so I’ll keep this rule for the appropriate situation.

3. I can always think of a solution when someone asks me to help, if I choose to.

4. I can sometimes think of a solution when someone asks me to help, if I choose to.

5. I can sometimes think of a solution when some people ask me to help, if I choose to.

6. “I can think of a solution when …I have the relevant skills and resources, I choose to help, I can tolerate it if I can’t think of a solution.”

Or “I’ll engage in problem solving when someone clearly asks me for help, I choose to help, I have the resources to help and I believe that the other person genuinely wants to engage in problem solving.”

Whew! It helps to transform rules, and sometimes they pop up again in their full, unforgiving force.