The Art of Strengths Coaching

R is for Recognising The Rules In A Situation And Following Your Route To Get The Desired Results  


People like to know the rules in a situation. There are rules that exist in families, relationships, teams, organisations and societies. Sometimes these rules are clear, sometimes these are vague.

People can feel uneasy in places where they do not know the rules. They may be going into an unfamiliar situation, meeting new people, joining an organisation, dealing with an illness or tackling an unexpected challenge.

People want to know the Dos and Don’ts for being successful in the situation. They also like to know what is happening and what is likely to happen. They may therefore spend some time gathering information about the rules, but this can be complicated.

Sometimes the rules are spoken, sometimes they are unspoken. Sometimes one set of rules is stated, but people actually behave in totally different ways. The rules in a system – such as a family, team or organisation – may cover the following areas.

The way people do behave and do not behave. The behaviour that is rewarded and is not rewarded.

The way people do communicate and do not communicate. The topics people are allowed to talk about and not allowed to talk about.

The feelings people are allowed to express and are not allowed to express. The behaviour that is likely to succeed and is not likely to succeed.

How to clarify the rules? One approach is to look for patterns in the ways people behave. It is to clarify what is happening and what is likely to happen.

The next step is to clarify the desired results. What are the real results you want achieve in the situation? What is the picture of success?

How can you do your best to achieve these results? One option is to find and follow the stated rules. Another option is to choose your own way to work towards the desired results.

Looking back, when have you taken one of these routes in your own life? You may have taken these steps when getting a qualification, taking a job in an organisation, building a business, joining a professional body or whatever.

What did you do to understand the rules? How did you clarify the results you wanted to achieve? How did you clarify your chosen route? How did you work towards achieving the results?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you recognised the rules and then followed your chosen route towards achieving the desired results. 

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

Let’s explore some of the situations in which it can be useful to know the spoken and unspoken rules. These include the family, work places and society.

Virginia Satir, a great family therapist, explained this concept to the families she helped. She explained that some rules were obvious but some may be hidden; some may be helpful but some may cause confusion. The family might have rules about the following things. 

How people take certain roles 

Such as those who act as the encourager, peacemaker, victim, martyr, distractor, problem child, sick child, workaholic or decision maker in certain areas.

How people communicate

Such as if they communicate in a positive way, listen to each other, blame others or do not say what they want and expect other people to read their minds. 

How people get time and attention

Such as by asking for help, causing problems, being perfect children, getting ill, communicating clearly or developing other ways to get time in the family.

How people interact 

Such as how they express feelings, show affection, deal with conflicts or manage the daily practical chores involved in being part of a family.

Virginia helped people to recognise the present rules and the consequences. She also enabled them to create healthy rules that enabled everybody to grow. 

Organisations also have rules. One famous organisation said it had certain values, but actually did not live these. When asking people who worked there, they said the actual rules were as follows:

Show pride in the company.

Keep working hard and beat your targets.

Don’t expect any positive feedback.

Keep your managers informed so they don’t get any surprises.

Accept that your targets will be bigger next year.

People who experience an unexpected illness can feel at a loss in several ways. They may feel out of control regarding the illness. They may also spend lots of time in waiting rooms, clinics and hospitals.

These are new situations where they do not know what is happening and what is going to happen. Once they embark on a course of treatment, however, they may know the routine and rules. They may then choose to accept the process or deal with it in another way.

Creative people throughout history have chosen to their own ways to achieve their goals. They sometimes take the following steps.

They start by clarifying the real results they want to achieve.  

They recognise the rules that people are normally expected to follow to achieve success in their chosen field.

They decide whether they want to follow similar rules or make their own rules to achieve their goals.

They then follow their chosen working style to achieve the desired results.

Creative people recognise, however, that if you are going to be a deviant you have to over-deliver. They therefore do whatever is necessary to achieve their picture of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may want to follow your chosen route to achieve your goals?

This could be in your personal or professional life. You may want to pursue this route when doing a stimulating project, performing creative work, tackling a challenge or doing some other activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to recognise the rules and then follow your chosen route towards achieving the desired results. 

Describe the specific things you can do to take these steps.

Describe the specific things that may happen a result of taking these steps.

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