Forget Gold, Go Platinum! by Tasha Richardson
Many of us hold the belief that the world would be a much better place if more people…
Forget Gold, Go Platinum! by Tasha Richardson
Many of us hold the belief that the world would be a much better place if more people would follow the golden rule. The golden rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Applying the golden rule requires a shift in perspective whereby you imagine how you would want to be treated in a given situation and then you let that inform your subsequent interpersonal interactions and behavior. Let’s consider an example to help us see the golden rule at work in conflict between two fictitious characters named Rob and Michelle.
Golden Rule Applied
Rob and Michelle are good friends, but recently, they’ve had a big argument that left them questioning the survival of their friendship. Last week, Michelle confided in Rob and told him that she felt really stressed out about the endless problems she faced at home with her parents. Money was tight, her mom and dad seemed to be on the brink of divorce, and she felt like she had to walk on eggshells to avoid arguments. It all felt beyond Michelle’s control… until she bumped into Rob that day after school. Sweet relief was near! A good friend to listen to her would be just what she needed to collect her thoughts–there’s nothing like venting to a trusted confidant. So that’s exactly what she did. She told Rob all that was bothering her and then she went home feeling great.
Things weren’t so great for Rob after that day. Ever since then, Rob was very concerned for Michelle. He did not know what he could do to help her–all he knew was that he had to help make things better. So he did what many would do in his place, he thought of the golden rule. What would he want if he were going through such a difficult time? He would want a friend to try to ‘make it better’ by coming up with a practical solution designed to ease the burden. Eureka! Rob had just the plan! To cheer her up, Rob decided to ask his parents if they could give him more allowance money every month so that he could share it with Michelle. When she came over later that week, he told her of his great idea. He was surprised when Michelle heard his plan and felt more lonely and alienated than ever. She essentially felt upset and hurt–to the point where she doubted they could ever be friends again–friends wouldn’t give charity to each other. Rob just couldn’t understand it! Michelle was being so ungrateful…if he were in her situation, he’d love for someone to show him they cared by giving him a gift that showed they understood where he was coming from.
Golden Rule Flaws and All
In the above story, the golden rule nearly cost Rob and Michelle their friendship. This was because Rob considered his needs and feelings when it came to determining how to treat his friend. This led to misunderstandings and broken expectations. When we treat people the way we would want to be treated, we’re essentially failing to meet them where they are. We are meeting them where we are, and this is a recipe for disaster.
Perhaps a better solution would be to honor people, their journeys, process, and desires by applying the platinum rule. The platinum rule states “Do unto others as they would have done to them.” This is showing compassion and care in a way that would allow it to be fully accepted and received. It is empowering because it shows the person that they know what’s best for them, and acknowledges our own limited understanding. Instead of giving to others what we need, want, and care about, we give to them what they need, want, and care about. This gesture says I really see you and value you, not my interpretation or approximation.
- Listen and observe: People generally tell and show us how to treat them if we’d pay close attention.
- STOP! PAUSE! When you catch yourself having a thought similar to, “What would I want (do) in this situation?” This indicates you need to stop, pause, and take a step back to remember the person behind the issue.
- Remember that there is a place for the golden rule and seek to apply it when necessary.
- Forgive: Acknowledge your humanity and the other person’s. We all make mistakes and we all could have acted better in a given situation. In the wise words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
- Take responsibility: We really do teach people how they can treat us. So it’s our job to be explicit about our needs in a relationship. If people get it wrong, inform them in a kind and honest way, all the while understanding that none of us are perfect.
This week, let us seek to ditch the gold for the platinum!
Guest columnist Tasha Richardson, a Public Ally for the National Runaway Safeline writes on making change. Tasha dreams of changing the world one thought and positive interaction at a time. She is in her third term of service with AmeriCorps and would love to dedicate her life to service in the years to come. You can read more of her work, including her Do.You. series, on our blog.