The Two-second rule is a rule of thumb by which a driver may maintain a safe following distance at any speed. The rule is that a driver should ideally stay at least two seconds behind any vehicle that is directly in front of the driver’s vehicle. It is intended for automobiles, although its general principle applies to other types of vehicles. A split-second decision here could be life changing.
This author hit upon the Four-Second Rule when working with individuals at NASA. “During one of my communication workshops, a participant shared that astronauts are trained to make critical decisions in four seconds. So, in the same four seconds that the average person thinks, “Hmmm, do I want a Coke or Pepsi,” astronauts are trained to make decisions which may affect whether or not they will successfully return to earth.
But, can this same Four-Second Rule be extended to communications? Throughout the day as communicators we make critical decisions: what we say, the tone we use, who we communicate with, and what non-verbal messages we’ll use to accompany our communication. Just think of how much better our relationships will be when, before we start to communicate, we take four seconds to consider the impact that our message will have.”
A Practical Exercise
Picture yourself in a stressful scenario where you need to communicate your feelings to someone. Now apply the Four-Second Rule:
Second #1– Take a deep breath and consider what it is that you want to say. Determine the point you want to make and what you’d like for the outcome to be. Realize that some words build up relationships and some words tear them down. Choose your words wisely.
Second #2 – Consider the tone of voice that you’ll use. A calm and friendly tone certainly beats a tone that is loud, harsh, condescending, or sewn with sarcasm. If you know that you’re “not in the mood” to be talking about something, then DON’T. Similarly, don’t deliver messages that you know that you’ll be apologizing for later, as doing so puts unnecessary strain on relationships.
Second #3– Make sure you’re about to communicate your message to the right person. Misplaced anger or frustration is at the core of many communication problems. If you have an issue with a doctor, communicate that directly to him or her. Don’t misdirect your communication to others on the unit, as doing so only contaminates the communications climate.
Second #4 – Consider your non-verbal behavior and how it contributes to or distracts from your message. When delivering your message, face the person, make eye contact and have an open stance. Remember, eye contact is one of the biggest indicators of how a relationship is going. Eliminate huffing, puffing, groaning and eye rolling from your non-verbal vocabulary. By doing so, you are guaranteed to increase the likelihood that positive communication will ensue.
Sometimes we need to “take a step back, to take a step forward.” By using this Four Second countdown you’ll communicate in a way that will keep others from going into orbit around you. And as those at NASA might say, by using the Four- Second Rule you will successfully complete your mission by keeping your communications down to earth.
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A common superstition, the Five-second rule states that food dropped on the ground will not be contaminated with bacteria if it is picked up within five seconds of being dropped. Some may earnestly believe this assertion, whereas other people employ the rule as a polite social fiction to prevent their having to forgo eating something that dropped.
There are many variations on the rule. Sometimes the time limit is modified. In some variations, the person picking up the food arbitrarily extends the time limit based on the actual amount of time required to retrieve the food. In Russiathere exists a similar rule: “Promptly picked up is not considered fallen”. In all, it’s still a decision.
ZDT Author’s Comments:
So many decisions…so few seconds. One site, “1000 Awesome Things” is chocked full of these little decisioning gems framed in seconds, minutes and hours. These are only a few examples. Point is, in decisioning, we often don’t have but a few seconds to decide. Is it better to think about these ahead and be aware of the important ones that are seldom considered…or not?
As always…you decide.
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