Friday, 5 August 2011

Crocker's rules

Declaring yourself to be operating by "Crocker's Rules" means that other people are allowed to optimize their messages for information, not for being nice to you.

I love it.

I now declare that I operate under Crocker's rules. Call me out on my bullshit - I want to know the real truth. Especially call me out (and remind me of this post) if you see me having a problem operating under Crocker's rules themselves.

I think I have been subconsciously operating under these rules for quite some time now. Admittedly - I also use them (a lot) on other people... even if they haven't asked for it. It is debatable whether this is a Good Idea.

I still find it a much easier atmosphere to work in - if you don't have to go through backflips of pleasantries just to say something without accidentally insulting the other person: not because what you're saying is insulting - but because you failed to put in the correct, socially-acceptable amount of padding...


"hi there, how are you, hope your holiday went well. By the way, you know a few weeks back you borrowed my stapler. I was wondering - if you have finished with using it, that you might possibly find some time to bring it back? If that's ok. thanks a whole bunch.. love to the kids - T"


"hi, could I please have my stapler back? T"

The full set of Crocker's rules here

How about you? Do you dare take the challenge? Disagree with the whole concept?


Craig Ambrose said...

The link to the full set of Crocker's rules didn't seem to give much more information than your post. Is there more info somewhere?

Also, without having more info, couldn't your example of communication using Crocker's rules be optimised further?

In "Hi, could I please have my stapler back", the words "hi" and "please" seem like redundant social niceties. I realise the goal isn't to be deliberately rude, but eliminating those words would certainly fit the definition of optimising for information rather than being nice to you.

While I certainly found the first example, with all it's additional padding, to be rather tedious, I'm not sure I'd want to live in a world where people simply email me with "return my stapler". I would much prefer "Hi, return my stapler please" in the very least. One reason for this is simply to clarify the difference between a request and a command.

The intent of Crocker's rules seems to be that you want others to communicate with you efficiently and honestly, and that they can do so because they don't have to worry about insulting you. However, in doing so you loose a subchannel of information which is also conveyed in conversation and warns you of someone who is actually hostile to you, or who is trying to impose a power structure of some kind.

Standback said...

I used to do a lot of fiction critiques - both feedback to amateur authors and reviews of published ones.

It was immensely liberating when I joined on as a slush reader at a small magazine, and could tell the editor what I thought without worrying about offending the author or being unfair. Because I knew the editor didn't need me to be tactful or thorough or explicitly fair. It's quite a relief. Similarly, when I've been in amateur theater and whatnot, it's hugely important for me for friends to be able to tell me when a show sucked. If you don't know people are giving you their honest opinion, then compliments don't mean much. So I can see the attraction of "Crocker's rules."

The problem is, I'm not sure this'd work in Real Life. I don't think people would think they could be impolite to me just because I say they can. I don't know that they'd know how to use that permission to actually communicate more effectively. And I don't think I'd believe a co-worker who took Crocker's rules upon themself unless I knew him to take criticism and bluntness well to begin with - in which case I wouldn't be worrying to much about tactful phrasing with him anyway.

Taryn said...

@Craig - yes there's no more than what's on that brief page. It was enough to inspire me, though. :)

As to the "request vs command" issue - I see your point. how about:

"can you return my stapler soon"

It is obviously a request but has no extra politenesses attached.

As to the subchannel of hostility. Definitely could be helpful in some circumstances. However - if you're after honest communication... it doesn't matter if it's given with hostility (just as it doesn't matter if it's given with politeness) as long as the information is correct.

If conveying an emotion (such as anger) is what is trying to be communicated, then politeness can often obfuscate the actual message. How many men have complained that they didn't know why their girlfriend was angry with them, or that they were upset... because said girlfriend was being too polite to let it show?

That all being said - I'm sure there will indeed be mistakes made... but there aren't there always? I' hoping that this way, there will be fewer mistakes in situations when open communication is more important.

I'm also hoping that people will be more likely to tell me when I'm obviously being an arse. That way I can hopefully learn to stop doing that. ;)

Taryn said...

@Standback. Good example of critique in writing/acting.

I totally agree that there are situations where it's currently the best way to improve. Much like code-reviews for programmers should be.

You are also likely right that many people will not really believe it in "Real life".

You're also quite correct that people that naturally follow these rules will notice anyway and just start acting tat way around me (I have at least two social groups where this happens spontaneously).

However, I'd like to spread and extend this effect where I can.

I guess what I'm hoping is that by spreading the meme - it's more likely that people will at least relax a *little* knowing they don't have to work as hard walking on eggshells.

Even if they don't relax the whole way - it will no doubt speed up communication time and effectiveness by reducing the noise on the channel even a little.

So, in my mind, still worth it.

tea42 said...

As long as people don't use it as justification to be rude, I concur. Tact is important.

Taryn said...

@tea42 - I agree. It's not just an excuse for rudeness.

however - I find it interesting in that it differs from other "just be truthful" declarations (including some of my own) in that it is only giving other people the permission, not myself.

Therefore I can't use the declaration myself for evil ends... I am still obligated to be polite. ;)