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A weekly roundup of ideas to Uplift! yourself and where you can join in lively discussions to make ROAMcare what we are.


Unwritten Rules

Last week Michael was reviewing our email subscription list for people who asked to be unsubscribed. It reminded him to unsubscribe himself from a growing number of unwarranted email “newsletters.” As the general election date grows closer, the amount of unwanted correspondence grows greater.  The more he thought about it, the more he realized that he had already unsubscribed from most of those “newsletters,” many multiple times. It seems there should be some law about how fast they stop sending you unwanted emails. At least something unwritten. defines unwritten law as those “customs, traditions, practices, usages, and other maxims of human conduct that the government has recognized and enforced.” It makes sense that governments can’t take time to regulate everything in life, especially the super simple things like if you ask to be taken off a mailing list, you should be taken off that mailing list. That seems to be an easily justified maxim of human conduct. Thus, the unwritten law.


There are some unwritten laws that are so unwritten they essentially are unknown. Several years ago, Michael had applied for a new position at work, one that was significantly higher up the career ladder than the rung he currently was perched upon. As he moved through the selection process the interviews were held closer to the corporate offices until the final round held at the headquarters building, where the new position was to be based. He did not get the job but at least he was told right then so there was no awkward waiting. When he returned to his office, other department heads stopped by his office to express their dismay that he would be leaving the hospital. “Oh no, I didn’t get the job. I’ll be staying,” he explained. And one of the others explained in return, “Exactly, but when you don’t get a promotion, you’re supposed to resign. It’s an unwritten rule.” Who knew?


Unwritten rules and laws seem to go against one of nature’s most popular governing laws. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Imagine if all the people who were told “no” at their first proposal never asked again. The marriage rate would plummet. And if those turned down the first time asking someone to the prom never asked again, we might not have ever had to worry about turned down marriage proposals.


Unwritten laws and rules have one thing in common. They don’t exist! There is no penalty for breaking law when the law did not go through the rigors of legislative debate and approval. An unwritten rule carries as much weight as a helium filled balloon. When unwritten, the law is only known to those who enforce it. And their enforcement is likely dependent on the desires of those enforcing it rather than upon a general decision and understanding.


Michael did not resign although it might have been better for those working for him if he had. His facility, once a staple for piloting new programs and training, no longer was the company’s leading information center or training base. Maybe there was something about that unwritten rule he should have looked into. Or maybe he was just happy enough to try, try again.

Unwritten laws

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Unwritten laws and rules are, by definition, foolishness. Why, when we have so many existing rules to follow, should we be expected to follow something assumed by others to be true? We are such control-focused people--everyone wants to be in charge of themselves and others. Or at least control the circumstances in their lives. Allowing people to make decisions for themselves is so much kinder and gracious. But it also means we need to learn to trust. And that, my friends, is a whole other ballgame.

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Oh so true, Dayle, allowing others to make their own decisions counts on trust. Such a scary thought! Like you said, we all want to be in charge, of everything and everyone. At least we can take consolation in knowing we can take charge of ourselves. That should be quite enough! 

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