I was having lunch with my friend Ted Barrett-Page, a couples therapist in Boulder. He told me he had three rules his clients had to abide by or he would not work with them.

Ted’s been in this business for 30 years, you can tell he knows what makes relationships work and fail. I love that his rules keep him from wasting his time with relationships that are set up for failure.

Here are the rules:

  1. Never express your anger at a level greater 3 on a scale of 0 to 10 (10 being blind rage).
  2. When you feel yourself going past a 3 walk away from the situation and reflect on what you are appreciate about the other person, what you are grateful for.
  3. Do not return until you are ready to listen to the other person and when you are with the other person really listen, be curious.

I think these simple reminders and rules are useful for leaders and for all relationships – our kids, our co-workers, our friends.

Rules allow you to push the ‘pause button’, avoid causing hard-to-repair damage and get clear about what’s triggering your emotions and what’s your part in the dynamic.

Yes, we need more than behavior modification to heal and grow but a few simple rules may give us the time we need for some critical self-observation and empathy.