The Platinum Rule
June 24, 2014
February 13, 2014
Did you grow up, like I did, hearing The Golden Rule espoused as the litmus test of moral living? Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. This is a universal moral code, found in the scripture of every great religion of the world. It is a helpful rule, a guiding principle, a reminder of how to behave if we want to live in harmony and peace with others. Sometimes it is called the ethics of reciprocity, a concise formula of how to live. I am sure you have, like I have, tried to live by this rule.
A few years ago, while training to use the PeopleMap Personality System developed by Mike Lillibridge, Ph.D. I learned the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they want to be done unto. I don’t think Lillibridge invented the Platinum Rule because I have since found it on the website of Dr. Tony Alessandra and have even seen it as the title of a network TV episode of How I Met Your Mother. Whatever its origin, this rule takes into account an important truth about relationships of all kinds. We feel most loved, valued, respected and cherished when we are treated in ways that matter to us. Because we are unique and we each have different ways of giving and receiving love, we need to know how to treat and love those with whom we are in the closest relationships.
Thinking about the Platinum Rule recently, I was remembering a parenting class I taught more than twenty years ago. I remember asking the parents, “How many of you love your kids? Really, truly love your kids?” Every hand in the class went up. Next question: “How many of your kids feel loved?” Less than half of the hands went up. That was why these parents were in this class. Their child was acting out, having trouble with behavior at school, and the class was designed to help parents connect with their child at home in a way that would encourage better classroom behavior. So why was it the kids didn’t feel loved? Certainly there were some complex reasons, but one of those was that the parents were loving the kid in a way that didn’t connect with that child. If the parents could learn how their particular child learned and interacted with the environment (unique learning style), they could probably make some important parenting changes. Do unto others as they want to be done unto. This didn’t at all mean that they were to give their child whatever was wanted. It meant, and still means, that you know your child well enough that you can love them in ways that matter to them. Kids who feel known accept discipline more easily; in fact the children, even at an early age, report knowing that discipline is a loving and necessary act by the parent. The key is that they feel known and accepted.
Gary Chapman wrote a NY Times Bestseller in 1992 (already reprinted four times) called The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Written mostly for couples, the premise of Chapman’s book is that we don’t all feel loved in the same way. Some people like words of affirmation, some like gifts, some like acts of service and kindness, some like physical nurturance and affection and some like quality time. What makes this tricky is that you might like one kind of love, and your spouse or lover may like another. Your job is to love them in the language that most speaks to them, and for them to love you back in the language that speaks most to you. If your spouse most likes acts of service, that expensive piece of jewelry you bought for Valentine’s Day may not have the impact you hoped for. Better would be to finish that project around the house that you’ve been promising to do for the last year. Maybe taking the time to put some heartfelt words into a card or poem would make the day of someone who likes words of affirmation, but wouldn’t matter at all to someone who needs and expects a long weekend away with just the two of you. This kind of loving is sacrificial, challenging, and requires effort. It requires the Platinum Rule. Do unto others as they want to be done unto.
The PeopleMap System takes this premise and applies it not only to couples and families but to other systems like corporate systems, school systems, and churches to name a few. When you find out what your PeopleMap type is, and you find out the type of those around you, you can then learn to relate to people in ways that matter to them. You can learn to appreciate others and draw on their particular strengths. So at work, if I know my boss is a Leader Type and doesn’t particularly like idle chitchat, it would behoove me not to engage constantly in asking about his family. Best to get the job done well and punctually, ask only questions that need clarifying, and not take up too much precious time. And if my boss knows that I am a Free-Spirit Type, then he might remember to give me some creative work to do and to be a bit flexible with my schedule. I will be a more reliable, content, productive employee this way. I will feel known and valued.
What does this Platinum Rule require of us? In a love relationship specifically, it requires that we get to know the people in our lives. It requires a deep level of intimacy, knowledge which goes beyond cursory and superficial conversation to the deeper levels of relationship. What makes this person happy? Sad? What is going on in his/her outer life and inner life that is pertinent right now? What is she most excited about? Scared about? What ignites his passion and curiosity? And most especially, what makes the other feel loved.
This, it seems, has become very difficult. We, all of us, are distracted and tuned in to many things at one time. It is difficult to pay attention to what is right in front of us, to notice and then to take the time to respond to what we are noticing. Using all of our senses when we are with someone, this state we call “being completely present” might seem like a luxury to many right now. Can we turn off the screens and truly attend to those most important in our lives? Do we want to find out what would truly mean the most to those we say we love? What would the Platinum Rule require of us right now?
Valentine’s Day is certainly a commercial holiday and you could approach it with that perspective. But perhaps an alternative would be to use this Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to practice the Platinum Rule. Do unto others as they want to be done unto.
Amy Sander Montanez, D.Min, LPC, LMFT