The “Rules”

While reading this afternoon I came across something interesting: in addition to the Golden Rule (which everyone knows about) and the Platinum Rule (which I learned about in the last couple years, and few know about), there’s the Silver Rule (which hardly anyone knows about, and I didn’t until about 3:00 PM).

As we know, the Golden Rule states that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Pretty good advice, but it has its limits in terms of effectively interfacing with the world (and even less utility in attempting to influence it). If you want to have a bigger impact, you’ve got to do more than do to others what you want them to do to you.

That’s where the Platinum Rule comes in. I became aware of this while perusing books at a library, in either the Business or Self-Help sections (where I do most of my borrowing . . . ) (I apologize, I can’t remember where I first saw it . . . ). The Platinum Rule is to do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

Huh? Did you catch that? Do unto others as they would me do unto them?

That’s the magic difference between the Golden and Platinum Rules. When you take the time to find out what people want, and give them that — instead of what you might want — then everything changes. You go beyond being effective with people to being able to influence them. Of course, there’s a fair amount to being able to both know what people want and give it to them (like getting your own needs met so you can discern the needs of others and have the energy and willingness to provide it), but the benefits (to you and the other(s)) are well worth it.

And then there’s the Silver Rule. This one was news to me, and a little dismaying. The Silver Rule is don’t do things to others that you wouldn’t want done unto you. Sound, reasonable advice, but a mere floor for human behavior and interaction. That’s what is troubling for me, that someone had to formalize what should be innate. But, I’m not so naive to think that such guidelines are not necessary; they are.

So (as regular readers know, when I write “So” in a post I am putting my Coach hat on . . . ), we have three big rules for human interaction. They are all useful.

First the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would them do unto you. This is probably best employed with people you have a lot in common with. People that appreciate the same things you do, or know you well enough to understand that what you’re doing is at least thoughtful — because it’s what you would want.

Next, the Silver Rule. Here I want to ask you if there are things that you are, or might be, doing that you wouldn’t enjoy or appreciate (or worse) if they were happening to you. These are often the hardest to see (because we don’t want to see what’s wrong with ourselves (because such requires the courage and strength to change)), but positive changes in this domain often make huge differences. They can heal relationships, bring people closer and strengthen ties. One note: the people you need to make these changes with often won’t be able, or willing, to tell you what they need if you ask them — you need to discover it for yourself (and figure out a way to make it happen).

Finally, my favorite; the Platinum Rule. Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. This works best by discovering what people want, by discerning their needs and desires and giving it them. But don’t wait to figure it out. If need be, ask. In fact, when in doubt, ask right away. As you get better with this “rule” you will begin to see how to use it all the time.

When what you do to, and for, people, and what you give them, and how you show up for them, is what they want, or at least in tune with who they are, then you have laid the foundation of true trust. When trust is established, and maintained,  relationships of all kinds work better. In fact, I would argue that that’s the only way they (truly) work (but that’s a post for another day . . . or you can read this one).

Trust makes influence possible. One way of defining influence is creating or enabling the circumstances you want to see in the world through others. When you have trust you can influence. And when what you’re doing is what people want anyway, there’s no manipulation.

Influence isn’t controlling people and/or circumstances to get what you want. It’s enrolling people in the change you want to see. This, of course, requires that you be around the right people, and the right circumstances, but you figured that out already, didn’t you . . . ?

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