Crocker’s Rules for Conversation

When was the last time someone said something to you that made you frustrated? Have you ever asked for feedback, and even though you wanted to be objective and accept constructive criticism, part of you couldn’t help but take it personally? There have been many times that I’ve been given really good feedback, but have a difficult time accepting it, because I have to accept that I’ve been doing something wrong up until this point. Obviously, this is less than an ideal way of operating, and Lee Daniel Crocker wanted to find a better way. 

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Crocker was a semi-professional poker player, and one day stumbled upon Wikipedia, and wanted to pitch in to write the article on poker. However, a huge part of Wikipedia is both updating articles and also editing articles, and Crocker was more interested in creating a good article than he was protecting his ego from edit suggestions. He coined “Crocker’s Rules”, which is a one-sided declaration where people don’t have to worry about tact when conversing with you, it’s strictly about content. If both parties declare “Crocker’s Rules”, the following conversation is supposed to be as efficient as possible, all content, no fluff.1

Shopify’s Tobi Lütke, founder and CEO, is originally a programmer, and wants his teams to operate with less fluff and more impact. To have an attitude of “I’m going to take 100 percent responsibility for my own mental state. You cannot make me unhappy by just giving me feedback in some way. So just give me raw feedback without all of the sh*t sandwich around it. I’m going to learn how to be intrinsically reminded that I’m good at what I’m doing and not have to rely on other people constantly telling me.”2

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It’s all about taking ownership of how you feel, and deciding that you are not going to interpret feedback as a personal attack. And the key feature of this communication style is that it does not give you permission to be tactless back to another person. Many people confuse this with Radical Honesty, and feel like they have carte blanche to reply to feedback in an equally blunt manner. However, if you’ve dealt with people in your work, if you’ve been part of teams throughout your career, you know that tact goes a long way in communication.  But what is even more valuable for yourself is choosing not to take criticism and comments personally, and to decide to learn from them rather than hide from them.

It’s much harder to do than embracing your natural reactions, but anything worth doing is going to be hard. Let’s all decide to take responsibility for our mental states, and not become victims of other people’s words.

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