Growing up, you may have heard the phrase, “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” It’s known as The Golden Rule, where essentially you must treat others the way you want to be treated.
But did you know there’s also a Platinum Rule? It says “do unto others as they would want done to them.” The Platinum Rule was popularized in Dr. Tony Alessandra and Dr. Michael J. O’Connor’s 1998 book called The Platinum Rule: Discover the Four Basic Business Personalities and How They Can Lead You to Success. In the book, they write:
“Because literally following The Golden Rule--treating people the way you'd like to be treated—means dealing with others from your own perspective. It implies that we're all alike, that what I want and need is exactly what you want and need. But, of course, we're not all alike. And treating others that way can mean turning off those who have different needs, desires, and hopes.”
Dave Kerpen, author of the 2016 book, The Art of People, also took a deep dive into the phrase after he wrote that following The Golden Rule has its limitations since all people and situations are different. “When you follow The Platinum Rule, however, you can be sure you're actually doing what the other person wants done and assure yourself of a better outcome," Kerpen writes. Simply put, you’re making sure of how others around you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is often practiced in religions and cultures, and can be found in religious texts. Early criticism of The Golden Rule came from philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche. Their objections included the question of how to know exactly how others want to be treated? As a person with a specific background, upbringing, and set of standards, you can only know how you want to be treated. The Platinum Rule takes it a step further by understanding why someone wants to be treated a certain way. “The morality behind The Platinum Rule is to refuse reciprocity and to respect your team’s diverse cultures, and create an inclusive environment in the workplace,” explains Aniko Dunn, Psy.D.
How to implement The Platinum Rule at work
Using The Platinum Rule in the workplace will take some practice. Dunn says you first have to look at and listen to others to discover what they want and need, then figure out how to meet those needs. “While implementing [The Platinum Rule], it is important to have conversations with employees about how they want certain rules or regulations in the organization or how they want to be treated. Sometimes it seems difficult to implement these rules in workplaces with diverse cultures, perspectives, and experiences,” explains Dunn.
Here are five ways you can practice The Platinum Rule at work.
1. Communicate how you want to be treated
According to Dunn, one of the first steps in promoting a place where everyone feels empowered to speak up is to be the one that speaks up for themselves. Create a space that allows everyone to feel comfortable even if it’s using team-building exercises. “This is especially true when you are in a leadership role. It’s a good idea to build a team by bringing everyone together to find out how everyone speaks at their best,” says Dunn.
2. Listen and allow for response
Communication requires listening and allowing for the other person to respond, even when it causes discomfort. Citing an example from Career Contessa, Dunn says to imagine this scenario at work when having a conversation with your colleagues; “You crack a joke or use a phrase that twists easily. Suddenly, you see a person's face turn, and they say to you, ‘You know how strange that is, don't you?’”
The site suggests taking a step back and deciding how you’ll react. Will you immediately get defensive and brush off their concern or will you try to calm them down by finding out why they feel that way? “Using The Platinum Rule, it is important to place embarrassment on the side and learn more. Instead of reacting immediately, think of an apology, learn more, and do better. This goes for everyone. There is a place for everyone who can increase their compassion,” says Dunn.
3. Set your boundaries and communicate them frequently
During the communication stage, you can set your boundaries and explain why they are in place. Boundaries are important in the workplace to close any culture gaps and prevent unintended acts of disrespect or microaggressions. “If you have clearly demonstrated your limitations, don’t be ashamed to communicate when someone crosses the line. If you haven’t communicated what your boundaries are, take time to do that at the time the boundaries have been crossed,” says Dunn.
4. Use empathy in the workplace
Empathy is the ability to identify and understand what other people feel and see things from their point of view, by also imagining yourself in their shoes. Take the time to have casual conversations and share work experiences and life outside of the office. Just by taking the time to chat you can find out what makes someone tick, what their professional goals are, and even how they work best. “When you take the time to understand where a member of your team comes from, and communicate with him or her from that perspective, you show a high level of respect and a genuine form of service,” says Dunn.
5. Continue improving by asking questions
The best way to improve at using The Platinum Rule in the workplace is to ask questions. Take time to check in with your coworkers and ask probing questions to connect on a human level. This will not only help you get to know them better, but it will also help you to understand them on a deeper level.
“In order to apply [The Platinum Rule], you must look at and listen to others, find out what they want and need, and then try to meet those needs. Ask more questions. Take steps to learn from people what makes them concerned,” says Dunn.