Posted May 1, 2014 02:31 pm

The Coke Rule, nonprofits, and inspiring people

Wisdom comes in all shapes and sizes. Take a look at the fortune cookie. Sometimes you’ll get a message in broken English urging you to travel. The banal cookies are lack-luster and don’t appeal to the fortune hungry folk, but among the piles of meaningless words is a glimmer of light. That one cookie that inspires a nation, the dramatic epitaph condensed to fit in a sweet baked good. You may look at this and think of it as a poetic gesture, but think for a moment. Wisdom impacts us because we only notice it after we encounter an issue in our life. It jars the mind and provokes the heart to act. Some wisdom does at least. Other types of wisdom can keep you out of trouble and your head above water. This leads me to “The Coke Rule.” 

I’m a PhD candidate in the LEAD program at UCA. We hear a lot of “words of wisdom” in our cohort. Mostly academics telling us to learn how to proof our papers and to justify our claims, but something they also teach us communication and how to communicate properly. The Coke Rule is a fascinating little practice that can save friendships and dowse the fires of rage beckoning words of wrath. Yes, dramatic, but you get my point. To enact the coke rule you simply take a soda (in this case Coca-Cola) and have it on your desk or in your hand when someone comes to speak to you. If they say something that upsets you, instead of lashing out and allowing disdain to drip from your mouth, take a sip of soda. Sometimes you end up guzzling, mind you, but despite the indigestion you may have following the soda binge, you have remained calm and can continue a conversation void of hurtful rhetoric. This practice has rooted itself into my business practices and has saved many contacts from permanently barring the door when I visit their offices.

I work with a few nonprofits and in the nonprofit sector it’s not all giggles and rainbows. It’s hard work. Money doesn’t grow on trees and dag-nabbit you can’t write a grant to invent it. (Side-note, let’s plan to talk about social entrepreneurship in a later post) When working with nonprofit leaders and the community you have to be able to communicate with anyone. More importantly, you have to know when not to communicate. It’s a struggle not telling people how you feel, especially when they are portraying extremely negative tendencies. Grin and bear it doesn’t really work when your teeth start to hurt from the clenched jaw motivated by rage. However, a sip of soda not only helps keep your blood sugar up, it also forces you not to speak. It’s a great technique. Feel free to try it out sometime.

Despite the necessity of the coke rule in some nonprofit communication, these organizations offer an amazing opportunity to meet truly inspiring people. Humans are resilient, persistent, and extremely motivated to make a change. Persons of all ages band together to achieve a common goal and to find their own passions. People inspire organizations, or at least they should. Organizations should be a reflection of the need of the people. Entities that grow with the people that support it, if people inspire the organization then the organization can inspire the people. A wonderful little cycle that needs be enriched and supported, I believe.