Want to increase your empathy? Go Platinum, not Gold

by | Sep 17, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments

Three-and-a-half year old @MarceltheTherapyDog has heard me describe the Platinum Rule numerous times to many of my coachees. 

As background, the Platinum Rule is all about treating others the way they want to be treated.

By contrast the more established Golden Rule, which is drawn from the Bible in the Gospel of Matthew (7:12), is all about treating others the way you would want to be treated.

Marcel doesn’t bother with the Golden Rule. After all what human would want to get ear rubs, belly rubs, and butt rubs in public?

Instead, Marcel follows the Platinum Rule regularly. I’d like to take credit for teaching him, but I believe he intuitively adjusts his behavior to respond to others in ways that they like.

Consider the morning that the 105-pound Marcel pulled me from the sidewalk onto the street near one of the neighborhood bus stops. I then noticed a young girl waiting for the school bus looking fearful. When she caught my eye, she called out, “I’m afraid of dogs; please don’t come any closer.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t,” I replied. “You see, we’re crossing the street,” I said as Marcel walked farther away from her with me following his lead.

As we continued our walk, we came upon another group of schoolchildren waiting for a different bus. This time, a boy ran up to us, and asked if he could pet Marcel. As soon as I said “Sure,” Marcel was leaning against him enjoying the boy’s continuous strokes.

The boy then explained to me and a girl who had joined us how much he liked dogs that slobber. Even better, he said, was taking the dogs’ slobber and sliming it on people. The girl and I looked at one another in disgust, while Marcel, who’s a champion slobberer, burrowed himself even further into the boy’s legs to the boy’s delight.

So are you like Marcel who treats others how they want to be treated (Platinum Rule)? Or, do you treat others as you want to be treated (Golden Rule), which is still the more common of the two rules?

Both rules are infused in empathy, thinking about others and treating them with respect, kindness and fairness.

The Platinum Rule takes the empathy to another level, encouraging you to put yourself in others’ shoes and express customized compassion. This involves considering the personal and situational similarities and differences between you and them. And if their preferences differ from yours, you try to do what they prefer rather than assuming that you know best.

To say it another way, the Platinum Rule acknowledges that people’s situations, life experiences, and personal preferences can be very diverse, and you respond accordingly. This is the most considerate, productive and gratifying assumption to make whenever you’re interacting with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences (which is every human being).

We humans can practice the Platinum Rule in these three areas at work:

  1. Communication
  2. Recognition
  3. Career plans/career development

When you communicate with others, use the channel they prefer. And if you don’t know whether they like Slack, text, email, phone, in-person, or whatever, ask them.

The advantage to you? They’ll be more receptive to receiving your message, reviewing it, and acting on it.

The risk to you for not using their preferred channel? They may overlook your message, see it but do nothing with it, and forget about getting back to you.

When you recognize others, consider if they prefer public or private recognition. Also, think about what type of involvement they like. Do they enjoy surprises? Do they like to be involved in planning? Or is their style more “do-it-for-me”? They’ll appreciate the recognition and your efforts to provide it more if it aligns with their preferences.

When you’re serving as a formal or informal career advisor or mentor for others, make sure you know what their interests are and even better, their strengths and weaknesses too. All too often it’s easy to assume they want to follow in your path, especially if they’re approaching you with questions. Or, you may inadvertently see their request as an opportunity to revisit your career. Instead, seek clarity first on their vision and ideals, and respond accordingly.

Yes, practicing the Platinum Rule can take more time upfront for us humans, especially if we don’t have the intuitive self-awareness that Marcel does.

However, you and the individuals you’re working with will reap more benefits. By acknowledging the wishes and preferences of others rather than imposing your own, you’re being very respectful, showing sincere kindness, and making a memorable impact on them. That makes you feel good too!

Are you ready to practice the Platinum Rule?


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