If you give a kid a rule without an explanation for its purpose then she is likely to ignore it when you aren’t looking. Kids are smart and they know that “because I said so” is a lame reason. “Because I said so” means “I don’t care enough about you to give a real reason” or “I am more powerful than you. Submit to my will or you will suffer.” or “I don’t know why we do it. I robotically follow orders and you should too.” Those messages don’t inspire me to follow rules.

It took me many years to realize that there are practical reasons behind grown up behaviors. Be a grown up because you are selfish! It can get you a job, a business deal, and most importantly, a date.

Here are some rules and why they benefit you. Do them because you want to succeed, not because a grumpy old man like me pesters you.

Behavior

Say please and thank you.

Why

This shows that you understand I am doing you a favor, and I have earned some karma with you that I might be able to exchange for a favor later. I don’t really think through it that way on a daily basis, but that is what politeness is about. It doesn’t take much effort but it makes people want to do more favors for you.

Recently I received a hand written thank you note from Joanne George on behalf of her team at Shutterbug Magazine for a holiday basket we sent. Contrast that with a magazine whose representative rarely returned my phone calls. Guess which one we advertise in?

 

Behavior

Return phone calls and e-mail within 24 hours.

Why

The longer you wait the stronger the message that I can’t rely on you. Put some effort into the response. If I asked a question then answer it. Write coherently. It doesn’t take much of this for me to abandon business deals or give up on an employee.

 

Behavior

Do what you say you will do.

Why

If you realize you won’t be able to accomplish what you promised then let me know long before the deadline. That’s not so bad. We can adjust the deadline or scope of the project. That is immensely better than silently forgetting or doing the work at the last minute to produce crappy results.

If I have to remind you to do something then you are wasting my most precious resource, my time. I’m not going to pester you. I’ll just stop working with you.

If I know I can point you at a task and forget about it then I’m never going to let you go. You want money, favors, backrubs? I’ll pay a very high price to work with grown ups.

 

Behavior

Tell the truth.

Why

Don’t kid yourself that you are a good liar. Lies are usually detected.

If you will lie about small things then you will lie about big things too. Grown ups are not going to work with you after they catch you lying.

It is always better to deal with an embarrassing truth than to try to cover it up. I am impressed when I meet a person who admits that they don’t know something or had a failure. That confidence and honesty will help you learn and grow.

 

You can break these rules for short term gain, but you will be constantly hunting for new people to step on. That is a lot of work. It is easier to follow these rules and reap the rewards from happy long term relationships.