Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise.

~ Joan Rivers ~

Discovering Hard Rules And Soft Rules

November 19th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 56 secs

Hmm, maybe a few hard rules have been broken…

Nobody tells you that rules come either hard or soft. But it helps a lot to know this if you dream of reaching the top.

Hard rules are all of the obvious conventions we have to obey. Generally, they’re clear-cut.  While, soft rules are anything but.

You never have to look too hard to find all the hard rules in evidence around the place. They are usually emblazoned on signage, notices, and terms of use. Either that, or we get taught them right rom an early age.  “Don’t play on the road.” “Be careful when talking to strangers.” “Wash your hands before meals.” “Don’t interrupt” and so on.

There must be many thousands of hard rules that we master by the time we reach adulthood. It’s really quite an achievement. Yet, they are only the basics.

What finishes us with polish are the soft rules. I call them hard and soft to draw attention to their nature. Because soft rules are subtle. They are rarely written and some you cannot even discover, unless you’ve mastered others first.

Unlike hard rules, soft rules are more difficult to interpret. Like knowing when it’s right to speak in a difficult situation. How to convey the right message with a cluster of gestures. Or, what to say when people are sizing you up.

Clearly, soft rules are much less structured than hard rules. Like mastering the nuances of, say, language, or dance, soft rules are open to interpretation. While you can’t define soft rules with straightforward instructions, they compensate by allowing you to make judgments for yourself.

People who miss hard rules are given short shrift. While those who fail to grasp soft rules applying to a particular situation are excluded, and usually, looked down upon.

So, what is the point of knowing about hard and soft rules? Well, it’s worth recognizing that both are required to do well in any given situation. Because, if hard rules reveal the structure, soft rules show you how to enter in on the inside with others.

The amount of potential soft rule combinations is endless and ever changing which makes learning them an ongoing process. Hard rule people who like everything bluntly stated find this difficult, if not annoying. But, hard rules won’t don’t take us far enough socially, much less in terms of career. For these reasons, it’s important to bring soft rules to light as a natural part of learning.

With soft rules often being so elusive and obscure, it pays to be aware of the issue. Then, with patience and acceptance of this veiled realm, we can encourage recognition and, ultimately, help each other to flourish.

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