I am helping to coordinate a class where students must register online and pay a tuition fee. There are a myriad of discount options available, including early bird, friend referral, and outside funding source options. Actually, I used to have two early bird discounts – one expiring in November and other expiring in December. In my head, I knew all the rules of how I intended the discounts to be applied. For example, the outside funding scholarship applies if the person has watched an online video, the early bird only counts if you pay at time of registration (not later in class), you can stack some discounts but not others, etc. In my head, everything was perfectly clear. In reality….it was a mess. Students took both early bird discounts at once, didn’t pay at time of registration, stacked discounts, and came up with all sorts of other combinations. The early bird problem was so bad that I had to remove the second discount, and I may or may not put it back once the first one expires. I was reminded that what is clear to ME is not always clear to others and that unless my expectations are explicitly and clearly stated, people will seldom be able to read my mind.
This is not the first time I have learned this lesson. In fact, it was explained to me a number of years ago by a team-building activity leader I have great respect for. He taught us the basics of a tag game that involved sitting on a person’s knee and simulating the action of flushing a toilet in order to un-freeze a teammate (don’t ask – it was wild). One of the first things that started happening was that people bent the rules that had clearly been stated at the beginning. After we had played for a while, the leader called us together and said, “Didn’t I tell you what the rule was? A full handle simulated flush was what I said, and most of you are barely sitting down and flapping your arm before you’re off to the next person. Now, if you are full-grown adults and doing this, how much more so are the kids that I am training you to teach going to? Don’t assume because you SAY something that people have actually HEARD you, nor that they are going to DO it." I am now finding out through my own experience that those words are just as true today as they were back then.