Archive for The Power of the Platinum Rule

Everybody knows what the Golden Rule is. No, not that Golden Rule; this one:

Do onto others as you would have others do onto you.

Professor Harry J. Gensler teaches in the philosophy department of John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Golden Rule at the University of Michigan 30 years ago. Here is his Short Essay on the Golden Rule taken from his web site:

The golden rule is endorsed by all the great world religions; Jesus, Hillel, and Confucius used it to summarize their ethical teachings. And for many centuries the idea has been influential among people of very diverse cultures. These facts suggest that the golden rule may be an important moral truth.

Let’s consider an example of how the rule is used. President Kennedy in 1963 appealed to the golden rule in an anti-segregation speech at the time of the first black enrollment at the University of Alabama. He asked whites to consider what it would be like to be treated as second class citizens because of skin color. Whites were to imagine themselves being black – and being told that they couldn’t vote, or go to the best public schools, or eat at most public restaurants, or sit in the front of the bus. Would whites be content to be treated that way? He was sure that they wouldn’t – and yet this is how they treated others. He said the “heart of the question is … whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

The golden rule is best interpreted as saying: “Treat others only in ways that you’re willing to be treated in the same exact situation.” To apply it, you’d imagine yourself in the exact place of the other person on the receiving end of the action. If you act in a given way toward another, and yet are unwilling to be treated that way in the same circumstances, then you violate the rule.

To apply the golden rule adequately, we need knowledge and imagination. We need to know what effect our actions have on the lives of others. And we need to be able to imagine ourselves, vividly and accurately, in the other person’s place on the receiving end of the action. With knowledge, imagination, and the golden rule, we can progress far in our moral thinking.

The golden rule is best seen as a consistency principle. It doesn’t replace regular moral norms. It isn’t an infallible guide on which actions are right or wrong; it doesn’t give all the answers. It only prescribes consistency – that we not have our actions (toward another) be out of harmony with our desires (toward a reversed situation action). It tests our moral coherence. If we violate the golden rule, then we’re violating the spirit of fairness and concern that lie at the heart of morality.

The golden rule, with roots in a wide range of world cultures, is well suited to be a standard to which different cultures could appeal in resolving conflicts. As the world becomes more and more a single interacting global community, the need for such a common standard is becoming more urgent.

I started this blog entry by saying that everybody knows what the Golden Rule is; I also think that most everybody thinks that they believe in the Golden Rule, but they don’t. Most people, if you push them, will admit that what they really believe is in doing onto others as others do onto them, not as they would have others do onto them.

So, if someone yells at you, you yell back at them. If someone is angry with you, you are angry right back at them. If someone is downright mean to you, you don’t exactly treat them with kindness. I guess you could call that the Tit for Tat Rule. So, most people don’t really believe in the Golden Rule, but they think they do. The beauty of this is that if you treat someone else the way you would like to be treated, chances are, because they most probably believe in the Tit for Tat Rule, they will treat you the way you want to be treated because that’s the way you treated them. Tit for tat.

(There are situations where the Golden Rule will not get you the treatment that you seek; that happens when you are dealing with Sociopaths, but most experts believe that Sociopaths don’t make up more than 4% of the population. The solution when faced with Sociopaths is to walk in the opposite direction as quickly and quietly as you can! )

So, what is missing from the Golden Rule? Empathy! Most people are not like you. Depending on the Personality Type system that you use, your chances are anywhere from 3 out of 4 to 8 out of 9 that the person you are dealing with has a personality type that is different from yours, and that does not take into account the obvious differences that gender represents!

I am a great fan of the Enneagram as a guide to different personality types. In contrast with Myers Briggs Personality Type and the DISC Assessment, that place personalities in one of 4 quadrants, the Enneagram describes 9 distinct personality types around a circle.

I am an Enneagram 5. My wife is an Enneagram 3. My son is an Enneagram 7, and my daughter is an Enneagram 4. That is useful information to me.

Having studied the Enneagram, I now know that treating my wife the way that I would like to be treated will not produce the desired effect that I used to assume I would be producing, because my wife has a totally different personality type from mine. I’m an Enneagram 5 and she’ an Enneagram 3! That makes a really important difference in how we view the world and each other.

There are things that are important to me that are not important to my wife, and there are things that are important to her that are not important to me! The better I get at discerning what those differences are the better I become at doing unto my wife as she would have me do unto her instead of doing unto her as I would have someone else do unto me. She’s happier, and I’m happier. It’s a win-win relationship.

This is what I call the Platinum Rule:

Do unto others as they would have you do unto them

Once you understand that other people do not necessarily share your personality profile or your personality type and you understand that different does not mean better or worse (it just means different), you will be on the road to discovering an incredible tool that will help you relate to others, treat others, work with others with a success that you never had before.

Following the Platinum Rule means that you take the time to get to know the other person, to find out what’s important to them (and what is not). You then take into account those differences when you deal with that person. You treat them differently because of those differences. Then you will be in the position to apply the Platinum Rule and do unto them as they would have you do unto them.

For many people, it will be the first time that they have felt heard. Others will not know what is different about how you treat them, but somehow you seem to understand them and respect them and that’s important. Often, once people are treated in accordance with the Platinum Rule, they look for opportunities to reciprocate. The result can be synergistic relationships where each individual is contributing what they do best to the best of their ability for the common good of all. The results from these kinds of relationships can be phenomenal!

Think more about empathy. Ask people what they want. Listen to their answers. Give up the need for other people to behave just like you, think just like you, be just like you. Embrace the diversity that humanity has to offer. Customize your relationships based upon the personality types of the people you deal with.

Practice the Platinum Rule and you will be astonished at the results in your life!

(If you want to know more about the Platinum Rule, you may wish to check out Dr. Tony Alessandra’s web site)

Posted on September 2nd, 2007 at 5:43 pm. Filed in Personal, Resources