Wednesday, February 15, 2006

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.

Hadley continues:
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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, there's GB Shaw's take on this (found, I think, more or less thus in the appended maxims to "Man and Superman"): "Do NOT do unto others as you would have them do unto you, because tastes differ."

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

One of my employees likes this one: "Do unto others before they do unto you."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I couldn't help but comment on the Platinum Rule vs. the Golden Rule.

When someone can actually live by the Golden Rule then I will be impressed with any additions to it.

Two flaws I see in the logic of the Platinum Rule being more advanced than the Golden Rule that may spark some more conversation are these:

1. The positive aspect of the Golden Rule is missed. It is not, "Don't do unto others what you would not want them to do to you." but, "Do unto others.." These are miles apart but I suspect that most people miss this who fancy themselves as keepers of it. Many can claim.. "Hey I don’t do anything to others I would not want done to me." And so what's the big deal? Who doesn’t except really base people.

But think of all the things you would want done for you by others throughout life. If you were to actively pursue this as a course of life then my friend you are much better man than I. Though I aspire to the Golden Rule I find that this there is a whole realm of selfishness in my life. IN fact this is the point of the Golden Rule. It reveals how selfish we really are. That was Jesus’ point -- that we would see we have a need for Him as Savior. To presume Jesus was attempting to give advice on “How to suceed in Corporate America” and then dispose of his words as inferior is rather amusing.

2. Also, The Platinum Rule in practice appears to be more confined to what I "say" to others and not how I actually "treat" them even though the term "treat" is used.

This reveals its greatest flaw. To use words (or actions) appropriate to your “subjects” to convince them you really care about them or that you are all together and they should trust you smacks of more selfishness not less.

Now I understand that even to use the Golden Rule in this way would be equally disgusting but by nature the Golden Rule in its pure form would prevent this. Since You would not want to be deceived you could not feign such care to others for your advantage.

Anonymous David Keating said...

Thanks for an interesting article. I have Google set to send me notes on articles the reference the Golden Rule, which is what led me to your blog.

There are two problems with most objections to the Golden Rule (by whatever name is used) - first, no principle or "rule" can stand in a vacuum. That's why, in the story of the Rabbi Hillel, though he calls the Golden Rule "all of the Torah", he also says that the rest, though "commentary", needs to be studied.

The second problem is that most people try to deal with the Golden Rule as a one-on-one concept. None of us exists in such an isolated world. Whatever interaction we have with one person also affects others, spreading like ripples in a pond. So while we might, for instance, think that the Golden Rule calls us to beat a masochist because they "want it." (the classic argument against) in reality the societal repercussions to ourselves and others, which also need to be considered, would negate this action.

Thanks again for an enjoyable read.

David Keating
founder, the Golden Rule Radical website.

Blogger Jhoni Tuerah said...

How do we want to be treated? What I think in how we want to be treated is we want to be known, we want to be understood, we want to be treated in certain way fit to us.

So I think, actually in "do unto others as you would want them do unto you", Platinum Rule has actually been included.

We are expected/pushed to get understanding of people in Golden Rule, we are expected/pushed to know what is in people's heart as we want people to know what's in our heart, and then treat them that way as we want to be treated that way.

Just a thought.

Anonymous Jim said...

One friend called this the platinum rule three decades ago:
"Do unto others as they have done unto you"

Anonymous azvonko said...

Having in mind the huge amount of violence, conflicts, misunderstandings, etc. everywhere around in the world, as the more important I find the first form of the Platinum Rule saying
"Do NOT unto others what they would NOT want done to them."
To restrain the evil, woe and harm first, it should draw the bottom line of our behaviour; and therefore it should work regardless of love and empathy to others.

Only then we can think about love and empathy to others, by considering the second form of the Platinum Rule, saying
"Do unto others as they would want done to them."

Blogger yousuck811 said...

There is one slight flaw to this rule....what if the other person wants to be hit in the head..are we to treat them the way they want to be treated?


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