Add new comment

wnylibrarian's picture

Guidelines Are Not Rules

Hello Interwebs,


Recently I was speaking with an individual and I flipped the comment to them, "Guidelines are not rules, know the difference."


That seems obvious to me but it may not be to some. There is a gray area of a rule, letter of the law, and guidelines -- the spirit of the law.


Rules are fixed. Guidelines are flexible. My golf league for example has a myriad blend of the two. The best example is a player hitting a ball into the water. We are not on the PGA Tour. We are not playing for millions of dollars each weekend. We are a diverse blend of different skilled golfers; we don't have endless time or galleries watching our lack of golf skills. Therefore, if a player hits a ball into the water, in keeping with standard rules, they must drop and make another attempt after incurring a penalty. If they then hit this ball in the water please, by all means, go on the other side of the water and drop the ball incurring another penalty and move on. Two things are in operation on this point. 1) A standard rule is being applied on the first attempt and 2) The spirit of the rule then takes over so that we can all continue on with our lives and not turn this into the movie Tin Cup.


This is not a contradiction. There are some people who are inflexible rule followers and that's fine, but they must be aware that sometimes this will be abrasive to what ever situation is at hand. These are the people who need a wristwatch synced to the atomic clock. Unless the individual needs that level of precision, a railroad conductor?, an airline pilot?, anyone working in a dispatch office?, knowing the exact time is not as necessary as one may think. Time might be the best example of something that is allowed to have a little gray area in the right situations. My wristwatch, for example, gains a few seconds a month. I usually reset it when the clocks "spring forward" or "fall back" twice a year. There is nothing wrong with an occasional re-calibrating, but I do not need to know the exact second when it's time to leave the house or flip on the evening news. Knowing that it is nearing the "top of the hour" is just fine.


I made mention in a previous post we are becoming increasingly inflexible in our society, and not allowing rules of thumb or guidelines is part of that. Is the overall goal being accomplished? Then there is room for leeway. The important thing is to know which is which. When is precision vital, and when can there be an allowance for wiggle room if the overall big picture is being addressed? Inflexibility does not help meeting anyone in the middle when collaborating on any given project. It only produces more push back.


Do you agree? As always please feel free to leave your comments below.