Blog with Joel Brookman

Ground Rules


As the parent of a 14-year old girl, I feel that any day now I will be having “that talk” with a boy who will ultimately date her. I think back to my childhood as a boy that was not always as respectful as he could have been to girls. If the parents of the girls I dated had “that talk” with me I might have behaved differently. In life we often find ourselves in a position of authority, where we have the upper hand. There is a fine line from being respected, being feared, and being an asshole. The goal is the former, but sometimes, especially when it comes to teen-aged boys, instilling a little fear by setting some ground rules can be effective.

  1. Communicate—People need to understand that you are engaged and have an interest in the outcome of a situation. Communication up front gives you the opportunity to set the stage. Failing to do so amounts to a missed opportunity.
  2. Set expectations—When you have your initial discussion, that is the time to set expectations. In the case of the boyfriend, my expectation is that he respects her wishes, is a gentleman at all times, and takes responsibility for her safety and well-being when they are together.
  3. Provide direction—Be very clear about the actions you are looking for. Don’t assume that there is an understanding. Provide examples of the behavior you want. Using my example, if the expectation for respect is set, I want the boy to walk my daughter to the door and check in with me before he leaves.
  4. State the consequences—What are the consequences for violating the expectations? In the case of my daughter, I would not allow him to date her if he doesn’t abide by my wishes.
  5. Follow through—Do what you say.

If you think back to the time when you were in school, you probably had a teacher that set ground rules on the first day. She may have even been intimidating. In the end, that teacher may not even have needed to be that strict, but the tone up front, set the stage. As a leader you can always become more lenient as time passes. It can be very difficult to get stricter over time.

Think of this structure as a procedure to use anytime you are in a position to influence others: whether you are hiring someone to clean your house, coaching a new team, or bringing on an employee at work, consider setting ground rules at the beginning of the relationship.



Posted by Joel Brookman in Communication, expectations drive behavior, Respect People, responsibility and tagged .


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