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The Platinum Rule-A Tool for Building Better Relationships

Librada Estrada

Shaking handsHave you ever had someone say to you, “I thought all Latinos hug and kiss when they greet”? Often, people think that I automatically will hug and kiss someone on the cheek as a way of greeting because I am Latina. The truth of the matter is that this, like many others things, is based on individual likes and dislikes. Yes, it is part of how I was raised and it also depends on the setting and who the other person is.

For example, one time I was interacting with a couple. The woman and I had been friends for many years. Although I had not had many interactions with her husband, because we had his wife in common I felt that he was “part of the family.” I noticed that when I hugged him before departing there seemed to be some discomfort on his part. I thought that I might have imagined it so I did not pay much attention to it and headed out the door. Shortly thereafter I saw them again. When the same thing happened I decided to check out what my intuition was telling me. I asked his wife if I was making him uncomfortable by hugging him. She shared that yes, because of their cultural norms he wasn’t comfortable. They were Pakistani. After profusely apologizing I asked what would be an appropriate way for me to say hello and goodbye. She shared that no other person had asked her about this before and appreciated that I had. Since then, any time we see each other I shake his hand and we don’t have that stress.

Platinum Rule

This interaction got me thinking about how I interact with others and vice versa, the stereotypes that are attached to groups and those that we perpetuate. It also brings to mind the platinum rule. Unlike the golden rule, which states that you should treat others the way YOU want to be treated, the platinum rule focuses on treating another person the way THEY would like to be treated.

Many of us have heard the golden rule and probably live by it. There is nothing wrong with it-if you want to be treated with respect, treat others respectfully; if you want to be heard, be willing to hear the other person, etc. It does come in handy. Realistically speaking though, you cannot control how others will react or treat you. You can only control your behaviors and reactions and how you interact with others.

This ties into emotional intelligence or EI. According to Daniel Goleman, credited with popularizing the topic, EI has to do with personal and social competence. On the personal front it involves being self-aware and managing oneself. The social side encompasses being socially aware and managing relationships and interactions. The more that you are aware of your triggers the better you can regulate your behaviors. Likewise, when you are in tune with what is happening with others, the more likely you are to better handle a situation and produce a positive outcome.

How do the platinum rule and EI build better relationships?

I prefer to think in a quiet space so I would often close my office door. I did not realize it but fellow staff interpreted this to mean that I wanted to be left alone. When I found this out I made it a point to open the door after a specific amount of time or even walk around and take a few minutes to have face time with others in the office. I still closed the door to meet my need and I modified my behavior to encourage others to see me as a resource and to share that I was available. Eventually staff felt more comfortable about engaging me in various projects.

Think about how your current behaviors and actions are inviting individuals to interact with you. Building relationships involves making it about the other person, not just what you will get out of it. You need to be open to learning new information and different perspectives (awareness) as well changing your approach individually and/or with a group (behavior management).

Will this automatically have others treating you they way you want to be treated? Nope, there are no guarantees. And, maybe it might help others start seeing you in a different light as a partner, supervisor or friend because you make them feel welcomed and respected.

Si tú quieres, to find out how others want to be treated:

  • Be curious-ask questions about how they prefer to receive or gather information, their interests, projects, etc.
  • Pay attention to the preferences of others-you can learn a lot from individual behaviors. Which of your colleagues and friends prefer to communicate by email, in person or text; who likes to brainstorm out loud and who sends you their ideas after the meeting; who only likes to eat X type of food.
  • Go outside of your comfort zone-As I shared, I modified my behavior in both examples to meet others half way. If you are more extroverted and enjoy being around others, invite someone who prefers one to one interactions to a coffee or lunch with just you or a small group of people. Be open to sharing your ideas in a group setting if you usually sit and observe.
  • Do not make assumptions-Put aside what you think you know about a person or group.
  • Modify your behavior-After you gain insight or learn about the other, be open to doing things a little different.

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