If you don’t like it, stop it before it happens 3 times

I googled the phrases “three times is a contract” and “three times makes a contract” and found neither. I was a little surprised because it’s a concept I heard of long ago, but perhaps another variant of the phrase exists. The idea is simple. Once something happens between people three times, it becomes sanctioned, however silently, if no one objects or otherwise intervenes. Whether this is literally true or whether the number three really does have magic properties, I don’t know. But the idea itself is intriguing. It’s essentially saying stop unpalatable things before they’re solidified and part of the essential dynamic between you and another person.

Somebody greets you with a hug & kiss on two occasions and you prefer they don’t touch you? Be ready to stop that third hug when you see it coming. Boss asks you to stay late two consecutive Friday nights? Prepare what you want to say in order to politely refuse before she asks a third Friday night. Aggravated because someone is late to meet you twice? Don’t be sitting there waiting after the appointed time has come and gone for the third meeting. You get the idea. The point is to be aware when an objectionable behavior or action repeats and to have a plan to cut it off at the pass.

I’m not about to say I’ve got this down pat and never miss that third occasion when it’s time to sever the impending contract. I do miss it, not always recognizing soon enough that I was allowing something to happen that I really wanted to put the kibosh on. And it can be very awkward to speak up or otherwise take action. My incentive to get cracking though, is the memory of getting stuck with bad contracts that I signed on for in the past.

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