Use the Platinum Rule to Foster Mutual Respect and Understanding

October 20, 2020

Use the Platinum Rule to Foster Mutual Respect and Understanding

Human beings are social animals with a fundamental need for connection. Social needs are treated the same way in the brain as the need for food and water. This is why positive social interactions and relationships are considered primal needs. Work is a place where you must be social because you collaborate with others and with teams. Social connections motivate you and fuel your innovation, creativity and productivity. Positive professional relationships are essential for our well-being and productivity.

Many of us learned the Golden Rule—to treat others as you want them to treat you—as a young child. Your parents, teachers and adults in your life knew that the Golden Rule’s core virtues of empathy and compassion for others guided positive social interaction. As an adult, I learned about the Platinum Rule and came to realize that it more powerfully shapes positive social interaction. It suggests that you treat others the way they want to be treated. 

The Platinum Rule challenges the assumption that other people want to be treated the way you want to be treated. It also shifts your perspective from a you-centric view of social interactions to an other-centric view of social interactions. You approach people with the intention to first understand how they want to be treated and then adapt your interactions with them to meet their needs. The Platinum Rule is a powerful way to foster mutual respect and understanding so you can build vibrant relationships. It also can help you avoid making a negative assumption about someone’s behavior, which undermines constructive social interaction.

To help understand how your team and colleagues wanted to be treated, let’s explore the concept of work styles. Your work style is the way you think about, organize and complete your tasks.

In any office you will find four types of work styles:

  • Logical, analytical and data-oriented
  • Organized, plan-focused and detail-oriented
  • Supportive, expressive and emotionally oriented
  • Strategic, integrative and idea-oriented

To determine the work style of a colleague, think about the following questions:

  • Does she consistently complete work early, in advance of deadlines, or wait until the last minute?
  • Does he send emails with only a few words or write novels?
  • Does she gesture and use her hands while talking? Or is she more controlled and stoic in her movements?

These clues, both subtle and overt, will give you insight to someone’s work style.

If you need additional clues, notice the type of work that your colleagues prefer and where they excel.

  • Your logical, analytical colleague is at her best when she processes data and solves complex problems. She will focus like a laser to achieve any stated goal or outcome and will ensure that you stay on budget.
  • Your organized, detail-oriented colleague prefers to establish order from chaos, outline project plans and create to-do lists. He will ensure work is completed accurately and on time.
  • Your supportive, expressive colleague expertly builds relationships, facilitates team interaction and sells ideas. She will keep all stakeholders up to date on work and effectively communicates ideas through the organization.
  • Your big-picture, integrative colleague can serve as a catalyst for change, brainstorm solutions to problems and synthesize disparate thinking. He will drive innovation, ensure variety in both thought and execution, and keep you moving forward.

Now that you have identified your colleagues’ work style, you want to use the Platinum Rule in your interactions with them and shift how you communicate and interact. The goal is to tailor your communication to the nuances of each work style so you can connect with them. The first step is to identify the preferred question that they want and need answered in every project-related interaction with you.

  • Your colleague’s work style that is logical, analytical and data-oriented is focused on the what questions. 
  • Your colleague’s work style that is organized, plan-focused and detail-oriented is focused on the how questions.
  • Your colleague’s work style that is supportive, expressive and emotionally oriented is focused on the who questions.
  • Your colleague’s work style that is strategic, integrative and idea-oriented is focused on the why questions.

Once you know the primary question your colleagues want answered in their project-related interactions with you, the next step is to tailor your communicate style to align with how they want to communicate.

Your logical, analytical and data-oriented colleagues want you to focus on data and the facts. Be brief, succinct, clear and precise. If you send an email, keep it short.

Your organized, plan-focused and detail-oriented colleagues want you to stay on topic, avoid digressions, provide detailed timelines and present your ideas in a sequential, organized manner. If you send an email, outline your main points and clearly state next action steps and the due dates.

Your supportive, expressive and emotionally oriented colleagues want the conversation to be informal, open and warm and have no hidden agenda. If you send an email, include a salutation and connect with them personally before you transition to the topic of the email.

Your strategic, integrative and idea-oriented colleagues want you to communicate with minimal details, articulate how the project aligns with the organization’s strategy and provide the big picture with visuals and metaphors. If you send an email, provide the context and avoid too many details.

The Golden Rule is pervasive. We unconsciously treat others the way we want to be treated. This can undermine our relationships with our colleagues and contribute to misunderstandings and negative assumptions about the behavior of others. Instead, use the Platinum Rule in your interactions with your colleagues to foster mutual respect and understanding.

Excerpt from Own It. Love It. Make It Work: How to Make Any Job Your Dream Job, reprinted with permission by Carson Tate.

The Authors: 

Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc. and author of Own It. Love It. Make It Work.: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job.