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Ward Green Group

The 24 Hour Rule

“Act in Haste, Repent in Leisure” . . .

Written by American author David Foster Wallace, this simple statement is a mantra I use to remind myself of the danger I court when I respond too quickly to events presented by the daily ups and downs of life.  Faced with a pressing issue, many of us choose to react, rather than respond to what is happening around us.  Sometimes, quick reactions work in our favor (e.g. when the building is burning down and we are running for the exit), but for the most part, we dig ourselves a hole when we allow a negative event or unsatisfactory interaction with another person to “trigger” us into immediate speech or action.  And then (to make matters worse), once we are in that self-dug hole, we work hard to convince ourselves and others that we are “right” and that the other person involved is “wrong”.   The harder we try to “win” and be “right”, the easier it is to lose sight of our better selves, our values and intentions and our bigger picture goals.  I want to talk about what I call “the 24-Hour Rule.”  Using it can free us up from this reactionary cycle, and improve our relationships with other people who are important in our lives.

How not to win the prize for “does not play well with others?

Along with working to make it safe for people to tell me anything and everything, suspending judgment, and assuming the best of others’ intentions, I use the 24-Hour Rule to help me manage myself with what I say and do.  It’s one of my Emotional Intelligence tools.  I use the 24-Hour Rule if I am feeling upset, angry, hurt, confused or stuck.  When I notice that I am in danger of “acting in haste”, I wait until I am calm before I try to resolve the problem or conflict which I am facing.  24 hours is usually long enough for me to clarify my thinking, but more complex problems and conflicts may take longer.

The foundation for using the 24-Hour Rule is built on self-awareness.

Here are six steps you can take today to work toward actualizing this common-sense concept.  Work with a trusted coach or friend to. . .

  1. Develop awareness and language for noticing what you are thinking and feeling as you go about your life
  2. Identify your emotional “triggers” (behaviors that “trigger” an automatic response from you)
  3. Figure out what your default behaviors are – what you might do if you’re negatively “triggered” by an interaction or event in your everyday life
  4. Clarify whether your default behaviors serve you well or poorly
  5. Identify other behaviors you could choose to act on that might serve you better in the moment
  6. Practice the skills associated with the behaviors you believe would serve you

better, and ask for feedback on your progress.

Ginger Ward-Green




Winning is Everything. Or is it?

I’m a golfer. My golfing roots run deep…my mother was born in St Andrews in Scotland, where it all started back around 1400. My grandfather was a club maker there, and my dad was a member of the St Andrews golf club for over 30 years. My home club in Scotland was Bathgate, a small town of about 15,000. The club, however, has had 3 Ryder Cup players, the most recent being the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014. As Tom Watson once observed…”In Scotland golf isn’t life or death. It’s more important than that”.

Last week my golf ethics were tested.

I was playing a 4-ball match at “Penobby” in Orono, Maine. My partner was Brett, a lawyer, and it was a very close match. We were never more than 1 hole up, or down, and came to the 17th hole all square. As the lowest handicap player, I was giving strokes to everyone on the tough 18th finishing hole, so there was pressure to win the 17th. After a good drive that finished in the light rough, I hit my approach shot to about 5 feet…one of the best shots I’d hit all day. With both my opponents struggling, I got a “thumbs up” from Brett and he came over with a big smile as it seemed certain we’d win the hole and probably the match.

However…a few steps later I found my ball. I’d played the wrong one. I found a ball exactly where I thought mine was, sitting down in the rough, and assumed it was mine. And I had played it.  In a few milliseconds my internal “chatter” included thoughts like…

  • ”If I pick up my ball and say nothing, nobody will know and we’ll probably win the match”
  • “I don’t want to let Brett down”
  • “People will think I’m really stupid”
  • And, “I’ve no idea what the rules are on this”.

I told Brett I’d played the wrong ball, and we let our opponents know. I half-heartedly played my own ball, keeping all options open until we could get a ruling from the pro.  Looking back at the incident, I kicked myself that I didn’t check that the ball I played was mine. I had excuses like. . .  the sun was going down, I wanted to finish before dark, the ball was just where I thought it would be etc..

Thinking it over, in the end the most important piece for me was that as soon as I knew, I behaved ethically by declaring the wrong ball was played.  And I acknowledge that I thought briefly of not doing that. We are judged (and judge ourselves) by what we do, not what we think.

In a business setting, similar dynamics play out. Many times over the years I’ve had an internal debate over issues like. . .

  • Telling a client information that I suspect they don’t really want to know, and knowing that being honest with the information I have may cost me the business
  • A client treating me with disrespect and struggling with how to assertively respond and give direct critical feedback without being fired
  • Or what to do when a client project comes in well under budget. . .

The “wrong ball” incident illustrates just how easily our honesty and integrity can be tested.  As C.S. Lewis said. . .  “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

David Green

Making it Safe for Others to Tell You Their Story

In order to understand where something has gone off track with someone else, you need to learn more about what you don’t know. You need to understand what is going on for the other person, and what their story is. We have a hunch that the best way to get the information and the story is if the other person trusts you enough and feels safe enough to tell you how things are from their side of the fence. Their story is likely to come out in bits and pieces, or like the proverbial onion peeling. . . layer by layer. Be patient.

If you want to work on increasing safety for others, try these ideas when someone comes to you and asks to talk or when you recognize there’s a problem that needs/wants to be solved with a real life, breathing person.

  • Arrange for a time and place to talk, with no interruptions or distractions
  • Even if you’re the one to initiate the conversation, let the other person talk first
  • Be a good listener and don’t hijack the conversation to meet your own needs
  • Check your understanding of what you’re hearing, but don’t use this as a way to “drive” the conversation
  • Listen for understanding and avoid judging what you’re hearing. Notice whether you’re internally labeling the other person as right or wrong, or good or bad. If you are, let these judgments go for now. You can sort out your judgment thoughts later
  • Maintain a comfortable level of eye contact, and watch the body language (yours and the other person’s)
  • When you’re confident that you understand the story or problem from the other person’s perspective, summarize it and ask if you got it right or wrong or if you are missing something
  • Before you respond with your perspective, think about how and when the best time and place will be to share your story – how things look from your side of the fence.
  • Before you get started, get clear on what your goal or intention is. . . Think before you speak. What is it that you want to have happen as a result of continuing the conversation?

Remember: your starting point here was to work on making it safe for people to tell you anything and everything. That suggests that you are trustworthy – worthy of the trust that the other person is extending to you by sharing their story, their perspective, their information. How does this match up with your own story of how you want to “show up” in the lives of others at work and at home?

Ginger Ward-Green

How Not to Win the “Doesn’t Play Well with Others” Prize

In working with clients, we notice an underlying theme. Regardless of whether we’re asked to help with developing a strategic plan, help a team work together more effectively or coach one on one to develop leadership skills or improve on a performance issue, being able to get along with others is a theme as constant as a heartbeat.

What makes getting along with others so hard? Why is it so difficult to “live and let live”? What can we do to get better at strengthening our relationships? Whether it’s at work or at home, why do we so often open our mouth and shoot off our foot?

We think often about these questions and want to use this blog to offer ideas that you can think about and experiment with that may improve all of your important relationships. The same attributes that help you shine and stand out as a leader or as a strong team member will also serve you well in your personal life. Here is one idea that works for us.

We try to make it safe enough for people to tell us anything and everything. We work at suspending judgment and at not labeling people as being right or wrong or good or bad.

Imagine yourself sitting across from someone important to you with something significant on your mind or in your heart that you want or need to talk about. What do you hope or wish that the person will do or not do that will make it feel safe to have this conversation? Maybe you hope and wish for. . .

  • Their undivided attention, with no cell phone or electronic distractions, no interruptions or watching the time
  • The space to express what you’re thinking, without being hammered by probing questions
  • Good listening, with no interruptions or attempts to steer the conversation to meet the other person’s agenda
  • No advice, no unasked for feedback, no frowning or crossed arms, no “thousand miles away” expression
  • A chance to put your thoughts and feelings out on the table, with no fear of being laughed at, ridiculed, scolded or “nibbled” down to size

These are real life wishes that clients tell us they hope for when they have something significant to talk about with someone important in their lives. Whether you’re at work and needing to have a conversation with an employee about a performance problem, or with a colleague who took credit for your work and got a promotion out of it, or at home, needing to find out why your above average child is in danger of not graduating from high school, being able to make it safe enough for people to tell you anything and everything is powerful.

Ginger Ward-Green