The Platinum Rule
Recently I began teaching my employees about The Platinum Rule. I was drawn to this book not only because I find personality assessors interesting, but even more because of my problem with the Golden Rule. No offense to Jesus -- he undoubtedly had the best intentions -- but the Golden Rule is flawed. It tells us,
"Do unto others as you would want done unto you." (Mt 7:12/Lk 6:31)The problem is that others don't necessarily want to be treated as "you" do. Thus authors Tony Alessandra and Michael J. O'Connor advocate a Platinum Rule:
"Do unto others as they would want done to them."It's rather obvious once pointed out. Instead of projecting our desires onto others, we should make an effort to get to know others when possible, and treat them as they really want to be treated.
But The Platinum Rule isn't a religious book. It's wholly secular and geared for supervisors (like me) who wish to understand their employees' behavioral tendencies and improve how they interact with each other on the job. It profiles sixteen different business personalities, and provides a test to find out which type you are (the test takes only about 5 minutes). In short, by appreciating the different ways people like to be treated, and by slightly adapting ourselves according to whom we are dealing with, everyone gets along better and maintains self-esteem.
I'm intrigued by the occasional resistance I encounter to the Platinum Rule. Here's a blogpost I came across by Mitch Hadley, who takes the Platinum Rule to task, in no small part because he's just uncomfortable with anything that "tries to trump Christ". He says:
[The Platinum Rule] would be laughable if one treated this with the seriousness which it deserved... Just think about it for a moment. If I'm a criminal, wouldn't I want people to treat me with leniency when I'm captured? Therefore, shouldn't you give me a free pass out of jail? And that's only the beginning. Suppose you walked into your bosses office this morning and told him, 'Boss, I want to be treated like the CEO of the company. From now on, I think you should do what I tell you to do. Now that you understand what I want, don't you think you should give it to me?'Such counter-examples are silly, because they are also counter-examples to the Golden Rule. No one uses the Golden Rule to determine what should be done with criminals, anymore than the Platinum Rule!
The point is not that the Platinum Rule works in every conceivable case, anymore than the Golden Rule does. The point is that the Golden Rule is flawed in principle. The Platinum Rule achieves what the Golden Rule tries to achieve but sometimes fails on account of diversity.
At the very least, Alessandra shows that he really doesn't understand the depth of the Golden Rule, at the layers which go into its true meaning - Tobit 4:15, 'What you hate, do not do to anyone,' for example. I'd suspect that Christ (who fulfilled the Old Testament, after all) might possibly have been familiar with this passage. If you read this into the Golden Rule, as most sensible people do, then most of Alessandra's arguments fall apart.The whole point of the Platinum Rule is that what "you" hate others may like.
And as for treating people the way they want to be treated, as St. Augustine pointed out, we must 'do many things against the will' of certain people, because they need to be 'punished with a certain kind of harshness'.But once again, this objection applies to the Golden Rule no less than the Platinum Rule. Of course we often need to do things against people's wishes. We can't always treat them how either "we" would want to be treated in the same circumstances (Golden Rule) or "they" want to be treated (Platinum Rule).
I think my favorite sentence of all, the one that really crystalizes what this is all about, is the one that The Platinum Rule 'accommodates the feelings of others.' And of course there's the key. In this day and age where we can't offend anyone, where we have to be sensitive to the point of banality, when we serve our love with soft edges so as to not hurt anyone's feelings, it's natural that something like this would catch on. And it's particularly appropriate that HR departments would adopt it for their 'diversity' training programs.Hadley completely misunderstands the Platinum Rule. This is not about political correctness (for which I have about as much love as Hadley). The Platinum Rule doesn't dictate that we all become sappy benign sweetie-pies. In some cases, actually, just the opposite: it advocates treating people roughly, firm, and forceful if that's the language they appreciate and relate to. Some personality types have no use for touchy-feely stuff (like me), and prefer more direct and impersonal modes of communication.
In the next post, we'll take a look at the sixteen work personalities. And for the fun of it, we'll cap off by pondering "What Would Jesus Say" to the Platinum Rule.