our experiences, we absorb a number of inner rules - have-tos can be quite
powerful in influencing our choices. Fifty of these rules are listed here. You
may have others add.
if any of your rules are in conflict with each other, such as having to be in
control of the your significant other, but also having to follow orders. For example,
if you have the urge to break the rules to see what happens but also feel the
need to keep peace at any price or to be liked, your inner conflicts may confused
others by double meanings you are likely to send.
Also, consider what
would happen if you have the same rules as other people. For example, if you and
your significant other both have to do it myself, youll probably
have trouble coordinating work efforts. On the other hand, if you both have to
be in the know, you may tell each other a lot about what is going
on, unless you both have a rule about coming out on top, or winning. Then you
are more likely to tell the other only what doesnt help him or her get ahead
Some rules are helpful in one situation but not in another. I
have to be perfect may be useful to the lab technician conducting sensitive
tests but not at home taking care of an active three-year-old.
fifty rules came from what many people have learned from male and female role
expectations and the work ethic. Undoubtedly, the list could be expanded almost
infinitely if we added the rules from other sources of our learnings. Every system
has its rules - their shoulds and oughts and no-nos. When system rules match
your own inner rules, you are likely to do what others expect even when its
not in your best interest. For example, if you and the system youre in agree
on the rule, You have to not make waves, you will probably voluntarily
go along with what others say most of the time. Sometimes this wont serve
you self-interest if, lets say, youre asked to be patient about receiving
a raise that everyone agrees youve already earned.
the more rules you have, especially those you rated as a 2 or 3, the more likely
you can be controlled by others and the more likely youll respond to matching
norms and expectations in your organization. A few expectations to this statement
are those inner rules that give you more power over yourself, such as, I
have to decide for myself, stick to my principles and ethics, and be in control
of myself. These are more likely to put you in conflict with traditional
This is not in your self-interest. If you dont take
care of your own interests, no one else is likely to. One way to gain more control
over yourself is to occasionally review your inner rules to check their usefulness
to you today.
Go through the list of inner rules again. Underline all
the rules that you know you want to keep, even though they get in your way sometimes.
These will be the rules that are part of your core values and your identity as
the person you want to be. These you wont want to change, and you consciously
choose to live with the consequences of these rules for now. Then go through and
circle the rules you would like to change, modify or make less strong, like changing
from a 2 score to a 1. Cross out the ones you have that youd like to get
rid of if you could.
if you dont know how youre going to make these changes, youre
at least identifying what better results youd like to get. This is like
cleaning out a clothes closet, sorting out the items to take to the tailor, which
to discard, which to start wearing again, and making room for new clothes that
fit your current interests and activities. Well see some ways of how to
revise old rules as we go along. Right now were bringing them to conscious
awareness and review.
When were dealing with the complexities of
communication, this kind of self assessment is one way to see how some of your
beliefs, rules, attitudes,and experiences can filter your communications as well
as your need for facades. The more rules you have and the more compulsive they
are, the more youll need facades.
of expectations and rules are fairly easy to identify. Once you become attuned
to their themes, you may observe many subtle variations operating in yourself.
More difficult to identify are the filters of underlying values that are often
unconscious, so much a part of ourselves the we dont think about them or
observe them in action. Some values are rich in human concerns; other values have
the effect of using or exploiting other people. Since were focusing on defensive
communication, well narrow our attention to values that tend to generate
defensiveness in ourselves and others.
What are Your Inner Rules?
the intensity of these rules as they apply to you. 0=Never, 1=Sometimes, 2=Often,
3=Always (Note: S.O.= Significant Other)
in control of myself
__Be a team player
__Be loyal to my S.O.
myself to my S.O.
__Not make waves
__Have the answers
rules just because
__Decide for myself
__Keep peace at any price
my S.O. look good
__Be the expert
__Be logical and rational
__Be objective, unemotional
__Be successful in relationships
responsible for others
__Do my best
__Take the initiative
__Do what my
__That things are done right
__Be a nice guy/girl
things I start
__Ask S.O for permission
__Make a track record
perfect for my S.O.
__Improve, develop myself
__Conform to whats expected
In the Know
__Be on time
__Stay in this relationship
myself to my S.O.
__Make myself visible to my S.O.
liked and accepted
__Be in control of my S.O.
__Not question my S.O.
your score which will be between 0 and 100. Do you observe any patterns in the
rules you scored? Do you have many rules scored 1 but not many 2s? Or are
most of your scores 2s?
Wells, T. (1980).Keeping Your Cool Under Fire: Communicating Non-Defensively. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What are some relationship Inner Rules your client may have? To select
and enter your answer go to .