Platinum Rule Versus Golden Rule

A great talk last week at the Harvard-McLean Institute of Coaching Annual Conference reminded me of The Platinum Rule.

The Platinum Rule is superior to The Golden Rule, but harder to implement.

As you likely know, The Golden Rule is that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Nice as it sounds, it presumes that what’s good for us is good for everyone else, which makes it more about us and not necessarily about them at all.

The Platinum Rule, on the other hand, is to treat others how they want to be treated, so it is about them, and that’s what makes it better.

Then again, how are we supposed to know what other people want from us. Sometimes it’s even hard to know what we want ourselves.

So, for example, a mentor once told me, when I was in training on a medical-surgical unit, that the world was divided into two kinds of people: 1) those who wanted us to give them every little detail, and 2) those who just wanted to us to tell them that everything was going to be okay.

Two completely different coping styles for them, two completely different ways to treat others for us, and it is important to know which is which, and at any given point in time, because what people need can vary from time to time.

So, it’s hard—but not impossible because humans just so happen to be equipped with ways of reading other people’s minds that we can learn to use better, and for better purposes, than we sometimes do.

We will say more about that as we discuss the Wharton Tool below, but first, let’s take a look at how we humans are alike.

What Makes Us Tick

Different as we all may be in some ways, here is my take on how we are alike and my 3 tips for interpersonal sanity from an earlier post, with the Wharton Nano Tool to follow.

Anybody remember bumper cars? They remind me of us, a bunch of egos colliding all over the place, sometimes just for the fun of it, sometimes not. What is that?

From Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman: “We all care intensely for the narrative of our own life and very much want it to be a good story, with a decent hero.”

Bumper Cars

That’s all it is really, everyone trying to be the hero of their own story. Each of us, just a tiny speck in the universe, trying to deal with our massive vulnerability, trying to matter more than we do—by producing and directing the story of our own lives, in which we are the star.

Trouble is…without realizing it, other people have a part for you in their movie, and you have a part for them in yours. But people don’t necessarily want the parts assigned to them in other people’s stories because they are busy starring in their own.

So, whether at work or home or wherever we may roam, we are like bumper cars, everyone bumping into the wishes, needs, and aspirations of everyone else. And although collaboration is our birthright too, it often gets crushed under the weight of the crashing bumper cars.

3 Steps to Interpersonal Sanity

So here are 3 simple but powerful tips to ease the tension and foster the collaboration we need now more than ever in these challenging times.

    1. Pause your movie and greet each person as if you are meeting them for the very first time. Every day is a new day. Set yourself and your baggage aside long enough to let the other person in as they conceive of themselves separate from who or how you think they should be.
    1. Focus your speaking and your listening on the subject at hand. Each time the mind wanders to what you think about the other person, or what the other person thinks of you, bring the mind back to the topic on the table. 
    1. Express your “what I find” to the others once, maybe twice, just to be sure you have been heard. No response? Not the desired response? Move on, enjoy your day, and remember that we are all just peas in a pod trying to get through the day—and our lives—in the best way we know how.

To further help you operationalize the Platinum Rule, treat yourself to relevant chapters on “Other People” and “Mastering Your Mouth” in Getting to G.R.E.A.T: 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life…Based on Science and True Stories and take a look at the Wharton Nano Tool summarized below as well.

The Wharton Nano Tool on Perspective Taking

The power of our human ‘mind reading” abilities is the premise upon which this tool is based. From Wharton’s Institute of Executive Education:

Mind reading would be an amazing superpower for any business leader. Imagine the valuable insights that could be unlocked by knowing what your stakeholders really feel, know, need, or want. Although we can’t literally read other people’s minds, we all possess a “social brain net-work” that enables us to take the perspectives of others and maximize our “mind reading” potential. When we exercise it, we gain a business skill with demonstrated value for improving decisions, sparking innovation, and cultivating collaboration.

The program offers two 5-minute exercises, which you can download here, to build this ‘mind reading’ capability for personal development, executive training, and team development.

The 3 tips to interpersonal sanity included here and the Wharton Nano tool can positively impact the success and satisfaction of ourselves and others—by mastering the ability to read perspectives outside of our own.

Practice, practice, practice…and let us know what you find. And to work on this or something else, Contact Me at [email protected]



Image by Freepik

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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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