Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Create your own rule

In Ethical frameworks on May 22, 2012 at 9:49 am

Yesterday I was privileged to meet a couple by the name of Mike and Rose Kennedy, with whom along with others we explored the possibilities of group coaching. We explored loads of topics that will probably become about ten blog posts. The one for today is a deceptively simple and powerful idea about how and when we choose to act.

After talking about this blog and the ethics of doing good, Mike shared that he had a rule that helped him decide on when to get involved: he waits until he is asked to help. This is a rule that I too have been playing with over the past couple of years. What used to happen to me was that I found myself giving people advice or opinions when they didn’t ask for it or welcome it. While I felt that there was some truth or importance in what I had to share, this was not held by the person I was with. What I shared therefore didn’t land with them. The only person I was possibly serving (at a stretch) was me.

So I started making a rule for myself that I would only share advice when invited. Having this rule made it easier for me to have a checkpoint to navigate from in a conversation. It isn’t always easy to implement however; sometimes it takes discipline to keep my mouth shut.

Mike also blogged about an extension to this rule that he calls the Spice Girls Question: Tell me what you want, what you really really want. This is the going deeper to find our what people are really looking for help with. He talks about this as being an important skill in coaching, and one that I would suggest is relevant beyond the coaching space to all aspects of doing good.

I don’t share this to advocate for these particular rules – they may not be relevant for you. You may well have mastered the whole giving advice thing. I’m less interested in external codes of conduct as means of thinking, deciding and acting ethically. I am more interested in helping people construct their own ethical frameworks. Having rules and questions that are relevant for you can be a nice way to do this. I am keen to hear of other rules or frameworks that you may use in helping you think or act ethically.

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