Unwritten Rules


In the National Hockey League there is something often mentioned but rarely fully understood phenomenon known as “the code”.  A set of rules that have never been written down or documented that everyone involved in the game is expected to know and understand.  For example, if a player on the opposing team hits one of your star players in a manner that is deemed to be dangerous, or even just too hard, it is expected that said player will have to “answer the bell”.  This means that either the player who delivered the hit or one of his teammates will have to fight a player on the opposing team.


Can you think of anything like this happening in your life or workplace?  Maybe you have it in your marriage, where it is expected but never talked about, that if one half goes for a nap one afternoon, that the other half gets to go out with friends at their earliest convenience.  Or maybe you have an unwritten rule at work where whoever drinks the last of the pot of coffee has to make a new one. What happens if these rules are broken? What happens if not everyone is aware of the rules.  What happens if not everyone even cares about them?


The answer of course is, chaos.  It could also be uncertainty. It depends on what the unwritten rule was that was broken, doesn’t it?  


The solution to this problem is simple and yet complex.  Simple in the fact that it could be summed up in one word, communication.  Complex because most of us know this, and yet we do not do it. In order to bring the unwritten rules from the darkness and into the light we need to be prepared to talk about why they are there.  Why is it that we think we deserve to not have to fill up a coffee pot once we have used the last of it? Why does one spouse think that they deserve more free time out with friends than the other?       


I’ll leave you with 3 simple tips to get you on the right track to better communication and more awareness of the unwritten rules guiding your decisions…


  1. Stop and Think:  Give yourself 2 min alone to just be calm and meditate on the unwritten rules guiding your life.  Think back to your most recent conflict. Ask yourself “what were the unwritten rules, ideals, thoughts, behind how I acted?”
  2. Over Communicate:  You don’t have to make this annoying but try going above and beyond what you usually would do to help eliminate any confusion.  You can ask who you are speaking to, “This is what I am thinking, does that make sense to you?” Often times, especially with those we know well we will joke around and use sarcasm, which can often lead to miscommunication.  
  3. Jot it Down:  Have a brainstorming session with your colleagues or family and write down any unwritten or unspoken rules you might have.  You may be surprised to see what the others have to say and I guarantee you it will improve your communication and your relationship!  

If your company is looking for help in this area, OnBoard Coaching can certainly help.  To see if this could be a fit for you. Contact us at info@onboardcoaching.ca.  Or visit our website! Onboardcoaching.ca  

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