Based on lessons repeated again and again and still only partially learned the hard way.


  1. Remember that people are doing the best they can at the time—we all fail occasionally and lament it longer.
  2. Assume that people know what they’re doing—your trust heightens others’ performance.
  3. Assume that the other person’s logic is valid from their perspective—everyone “has a point” worth considering.
  4. Ask the questions necessary to attempt to understand the other person’s perspective—everyone has a story worth hearing.
  5. Take the time to investigate fully—a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
  6. Withhold criticism before you understand the other person’s reasoning—it’s never “black or white”.
  7. Withhold criticism after you understand the other person’s reasoning—insight and example open doors, criticism slams them shut.
  8. Feel gratitude for the effort the person has made to engage with you—“no man is an island”.
  9. Feel gratitude for the person who has engaged with you—teachers come in many disguises.
  10. Express gratitude for the effort the person has made to engage with you—they deserve to feel worthy of your time and their effort.
  11. Offer insight when asked—there are many doors, but you only have two feet.
  12. Assume that others’ viewpoints have evolved as much as yours have—we are all on a spiritual path.
  13. Be gentle—people will remember what they felt more than what you said.
  14. Lead by example—argument may speak the loudest but action speaks the clearest.


  • I’ve been contemplating my own history of human interaction and have come to some conclusions too discomforting to discuss here. Suffice to say, I’m hereby decreeing my new rules of engagement—14 of them, it’s an auspicious number.
  • The phrase “no man is an island” in #8 above refers to a section of a work by John Donne, which I also used to lead off the Death By Water part of my Life By Fire novel.