The Platinum Rule
I wrote this on Tumblr awhile back:
A long time ago in another lifetime I was sent to some work training thing where they teach you corporate bullshit like “paradigm shift,” or “thinking outside the box.” In this case they taught us about the Platinum Rule. And, despite what I’d like to say about it, I actually find it really valuable. The point is that we’re taught the Golden Rule – to treat others as we’d like to be treated. And that’s important when we don’t know how the OTHERS would want to be treated (not the OTHERS like in Lost. We don’t treat them with either Rule, we just hide). But the Platinum Rule states that we should treat others as THEY want to be treated. Every person and every situation each person is in is so different that there isn’t just one answer.
I wrote that in response to a Stephen Fry quote about depression which came (to my attention) shortly after Allie Brosh’s post about depression.
But the thing is that the Platinum Rule applies to everything. Depression, pregnancy, body image, weddings, procreation, vegetarianism, fandoms… Everything. You know all those “Things not to say” lists? If we all followed the Platinum Rule, we wouldn’t need them.
So why don’t we all follow the Platinum Rule?
I don’t know. But if I had to guess, I would say it’s because the Golden Rule is easier. We created etiquette as a sort of rulebook for life. So we’d know how to handle certain situations that might otherwise be unfamiliar to us. We all know these rules and we have come to expect them from people. People who don’t follow these rules are considered rude because we don’t understand what they are thinking.
But etiquette doesn’t cover every situation ever. So we covered our asses by creating the Golden Rule. If you’re in a situation that your understanding of etiquette doesn’t cover, go ahead and act the way you’d want people to act to you. This is mostly a good thing. It covers all the basics like, “don’t murder people” because you wouldn’t want to be murdered. Or “Give The Hand* when another driver lets you go first” because you’d want someone to give you The Hand if you allowed them to go first.
But then you get to the next level of How To Interact With Other Humans. Those gray areas where your best intentions turn into hurtful things because you don’t know what’s going on in the other person’s head. Where, instead of assuming how you should act, you ask how they want you to act. Because while you may have worries and a gentle reminder to relax might work for you, if someone tells me to relax while I’m having an actual anxiety attack, I only tense up further and become angry on top of anxious, because what I really need at the moment it just to be understood. And possibly some Xanax.
And so here I am. Promoting this Platinum Rule. Which seemed, at first, to be some of the corporate-est bullshittiest corporate bullshit out there, but turns out, upon actual implementation, to be some of the best advice I ever received. So go forth and Platinum each other. And, yes. Let’s always call it Platinuming Each Other.
*You know. The Hand. That little gesture that’s not really a wave? It’s more just a presenting of your hand. But other drivers know you are saying, “Hey, thanks!” and not just, “Look! I have a hand!”