The Golden Rule is Dead

by | May 5, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

Stop treating people how you want to be treated.

I have one hobby: reading. I don’t fish, golf or collect Star Wars figurines. I read lots of books. That’s it.

Because of this diversion, I’ve noticed over the years that I frequently give others a gift that I would very much enjoy: a book.

As a result, my friends, family, employees, peers, prospects, etc., have lots of unread books sitting on their nightstand courtesy of yours truly.

Each time, I think to myself, they’ve just got to read this one, it will make such a difference in their life. When they don’t, I’m always amazed, wondering how anyone could pass up the chance to learn something new.

The Obsession With Ourselves 

You’re probably a lot like me (not a book nerd, but a little self-absorbed). We’re all a little guilty of assuming that everyone has the same interests/desires/passions as we do. It’s pervasive throughout society.

As a leader, we assume that our direct reports want a similar career path filled with promotions, responsibilities and a bigger salary. We assume our friends like to do the same things, watch similar shows on TV and have the same expectations for their kids. Our schools are built on the premise that every kid learns the same way and they should all go to a four-year college.

The result of all of these “assumptions” is that we appear to be chasing the same goals and feel that anything less is failure. All this activity leads to a lot of effort, stress, frustration and maybe worst of all: sameness.

Embrace Differences

Maybe it’s time we try a different approach.

Instead of assuming that everyone we interact with wants the same outcomes, perhaps we should consider the possibility that they’re nothing like us.

It’s a jarring idea, especially when you’re considering your family and closest friends.

My son is a sophomore in high school, and it’s hard for me not to look at the next 10 years of his life and lay out the “perfect” career/life path. It’s almost like an experiment to create a mini-me. The idea that he’s completely uninterested in my plan is terrifying.

But, the important truth I remind myself daily is that he’s a unique individual and will chart out his own distinctive path, which might be the complete opposite of what I think he should consider.

We shouldn’t just limit this approach with our kids. It’s important that we help others achieve what’s important to them, regardless of our preferences. (Some call this the Platinum Rule: “Treat others as they would like to be treated.”)

Although the Platinum Rule is simple and straightforward, it can be difficult to put into practice. As a result, here are three simple steps to get you moving in the right direction:

Start with a blank slate

As a father, boss and corporate advisor, this one is extremely difficult for me. I’m often under the impression that people expect me to come to every conversation with the answers.

Join me in resisting this urge.

Try and approach every situation as though you have no idea what the other person expects. Start off the interaction with a sense of curiosity.


At the risk of sounding too obvious, I know from experience that most busy professionals struggle mightily with keeping their mouths shut. We allow someone to get about halfway through their thought before we formulate our response and wait impatiently for them to finish.

Here are two simple techniques for improving in this area. First, look the person in the eyes when they are talking. Second, wait one full second after they’re done before you respond. (Trust me, a second feels like an hour for most.) It’s also not a bad idea to repeat what they said to ensure you’re on the same page.

Follow through

We’ve all met the person who does an amazing job listening to our story but then forgets the conversation the next time we see them. We know we’re being sold something and usually call these people politicians (I couldn’t resist).

Here’s a crazy idea. When you learn something new about an individual’s interests/passions/goals, etc., jot down a note and follow up. It seems so simple, but it is almost never done. Trust me, you’ll make a huge impression if all you do is send someone a handwritten note mentioning something you remember from your conversation.

While influencing behavior isn’t rocket science, it does require you to be intentional and allow someone else to be the center of attention.

This article was originally published to Forbes on March 23, 2020. Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash.

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