The Platinum Plus Rule: Honor and Respect of Best Selves

Platinum Plus Rule“You know, my mom is mad at you,” said my husband as we were driving home from visiting his parents many years ago.

“What? Why?”

“You didn’t help with the dishes.”

“I offered to help,” I said, “but she said ‘no.'”

“You only asked once,” he said,  “You have to ask three times, and insist on the third time.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“No.  That’s just how she does it–refusing the first few offers of help, but giving in when you insist.”

I was speechless for a moment. I felt badly that I had let my mother-in-law down.  I felt misunderstood.

I had offered to help with the dishes, but respected that it was her house and that she had the right to do things her way, which might include me not helping. So, I accepted her “no” at face-value.

I had treated my mother-in-law the way that I would want to be treated. I had applied the Golden Rule.

Many people consider the Golden Rule to be at the root of respect:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  

But,  there is a problematic assumption in the Golden Rule:  “Other people are like me.”  The problem is that how you want to be treated may not be how other people want to be treated.

Enter the Platinum Rule:  Do unto others what they would have you do unto them (Treat other people the way they want to be treated).

The Platinum Rule is more empathetic than the Golden Rule.  And in the case with my mother-in-law and the dishes, after I realized how the “dish game” was played, I changed my behavior to treat my mother-in-law the way she wanted to be treated.

The Platinum Rule is an improvement on the Golden Rule, but, I see three main challenges with the Platinum Rule:

1. How people want to be treated may be in conflict with your values/morals.

2. How people want to be treated may be harmful to them.

3. How people want to be treated is limited by their own imagination.

For example, If a panhandler approaches you for money, the Platinum Rule would dictate that you give them some money.  However, it might be against your values to give money to beggars.  You might think that giving the beggar money could be harmful, if he uses it to buy alcohol.  Or, you might have something even better than money that you could give the beggar, like a job.

So, I propose the Platinum Plus Rule.

The Platinum Plus Rule:  Treat other people the way their best self would want your best self to treat them.

If your best self doesn’t want to give money because that is in conflict with your values and because you think giving money directly could result in harm, but at the same time your best self respects the humanity of the human being in front of you, you will explore other options  (offering to get some food, talking a little bit with the person to determine how you could help in a way that would be mutually agreeable, even respectfully saying “no”).

Your thoughts?

This post is a tangential diversion in the series 7 Principles of Making Relationships Work at Work.  The next post will look at practical ways to apply the related Business Principle 2: Give Them Honor and Respect (The Respect Virus: 7 Ways to Spread It at Work)

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus