Rules are rules


All of us are faced with strict rules during these times of Covid-19. We’re only allowed one visitor a day and there’s a night-time curfew in place from 21:00 hrs. I’m inclined to bend the rules somewhat and tell myself: ‘two visitors shouldn’t be a problem, right?’ But then I decide to be obedient after all. I certainly don’t show my rebellious streak by breaking the law. No matter how unpleasant they may be, I understand the reasoning behind the rules. But that’s not always true for the rules I encounter in my work.

For example: a student asked my help the other day, much to my surprise, with deregistering from an elective course at a different department. My permission for the deregistration was needed because the elective course had already started. I erroneously said that this wasn’t necessary. Why should a student have to go through so much trouble to deregister? I believe that it’s only right when a student reports his or her their decision to deregister, and they should be allowed to do so at any time as far as I’m concerned. But no, according to the Education and Examination Rules (OER), this matter should not be taken up by me, but by the manager ESA. Is that really necessary?

As study advisor, I’m usually the one who asks for exceptions to rules that apply to students. This isn’t always appreciated by the person I approach. I usually start by exploring what possibilities I have of getting something done for a certain student. That’s difficult when the person I’m speaking to is on the other end of the spectrum and believes that ‘rules are rules.’ My challenge is to see how we can continue to communicate effectively. A question such as ‘what alternatives are there in this case?’ can lead to an opening in the conversation.

I like to think that rules are there to support me in my work. I sometimes use them purposefully, when I believe that it will help one of my students. At other times, I try to find some room for maneuver. And every person has his or her own behavioral patterns; a unique way of observing, thinking and behaving in a certain context. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a psychological approach that uses meta-programs. For example, I’m someone who prefers ‘options’ to ‘procedures,’ as you can tell from the above. An awareness of these meta-programs can help people improve their communication skills. Discovering your own patterns isn’t that easy, and discovering those of others is even harder. I’ve spent quite a number of hours trying to recognize patterns, and I still find it difficult.

My ID ESA department was first introduced to this subject matter by an external trainer during an awayday. After that day, we were able to recognize some of each other’s patterns. ‘Hey, you indicate what you want to avoid, while I’m making my intentions clear.’ The realization that there is no right or wrong behavioral pattern is very valuable; the differences can actually enhance collaboration within a team.

If this subject matter interests you, send me an email. I often use these meta-programs, and I learn by falling down and getting back up. 

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