Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Golden Rule - Not!

Do unto others as you would have the do unto you....

That which is hateful to you, do not do to others...

Two versions of the same rule. We've been taught since infancy that the Golden Rule is the way to go. But what if it's wrong? What if, instead of a great way to treat others, what we've been doing all along is feeding our own selfish needs???

I can hear it now...

What??? The Golden Rule BAD? Selfish? Are you crazy?????

I don't think so. I read something yesterday that made me totally shift my thinking on this....hear me out.

What if we said:

I will stop treating people the way that I want to be treated, and will instead treat them the way that they want to be treated.

It's based in part on the work of management guru Peter Drucker, but the idea has root in ideas put forth by Emil Durkheim and others.

Simply put, the Golden Rule is selfish. It assumes that the greatest good I can do for you is to treat you according to my own needs, desires, wants and construct.

If I like it, you will too. End of thoughts.

But what if I DON'T like it? What if YOUR needs and wants are not only different than mine, but contrary to mine? How is it a virtue to continue to treat you in a way you find annoying, meaningless or perhaps even offensive?

If I like ice cream, and you are lactose intolerant and diabetic, is it a virtue to give you ice cream for dessert. After all, I am giving you what I would like to be given -- Golden Rule in action. Yet, clearly it would be selfish -- possibly even dangerous.

The same can be said for methods of communication, types of instruction, and other personal means of interaction.

If instead I treat you as YOU wish to be treated, I am putting aside my preferences, and treating you in the way you prefer. Empathy in action!

And for those who would say "What if I find your needs offensive or outside of my values? Does this mean I need to be a doormat?" The answer is simple, and it's not to violate everything you believe in!

First, try to compromise and collaborate. Respect the differences. See if there is a better third way for both of you. (As in Stephen Covey's Win-Win scenerio)

If a compromise is not possible, (and that would be the logical first step!) and the needs of the other are really too awful and disturbing to respect, the relationship might need to be respectfully terminated or at least curtailed.

This does not mean that every one who sees the world differently needs to be excluded from our lives. There is much value in learning from others, and adapting our own perhaps rigid stances to include respect for other styles and needs. It's a means for growth and expansion, especially if it's mutual. In most cases, a person could learn to treat a loved one or a valued colleague according to THAT person's needs without compromising dearly held values.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You raise an interesting point...I'll have to give this some more thought.