The Platinum Rule for the Family

You have no doubt heard of the Golden Rule. Found in religions around the world, and in Christianity attributed to Jesus, it is stated either negatively, "Do not do unto others what you would not have done to you, or else positively, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." While both express a core sentiment of empathy that is valuable, neither is really fully adequate. What we need instead is the Platinum Rule:

"Do unto others as they would have you do unto them."

The difference here should be clear. The Golden Rule calls on us to think about what we would want for ourselves, and treat others accordingly. The Platinum Rule instead acknowledges that people are different, and requires us to pay attention to what others truly want, instead of what we think they should want. Here are a couple of examples:

First, a husband realizes that his wife loves going out occasionally on date nights. He's more of a 'home body,' preferring to tinker around in his garage workshop or else read, while she enjoys cultural and community events, or simply dinner and a movie. Aware of this, he accommodates, thinking of different places to take her every month to show her a good time. If it depended on him thinking about what he would want, he might not make that leap to really put himself in her shoes. He could very well have ended up thinking that since he liked sticking around the house, she should too.

Second, one of the children in a family has a strong aversion to hugs from anyone but the parents. When there are get-togethers with the extended family, one of the aunts thinks she needs to hug and kiss each of her nieces and nephews. One of the parents pulls her aside one day and explains the situation, and while the aunt initially feels hurt, she accepts it, and at the next family gathering she hugs her other nieces and nephews, but smiles and waves to the one who she knows doesn't like to be touched. The child is visibly relieved and all smiles from there on out. The aunt grew up in a very 'huggy' family, and for her it was never optional, nor did it need to be since for her it felt like love and acceptance. 

We must not center our own egos and identities in relation to other people. What we want and what someone else would have done to them could be very different things. 

On a final note, a positive about the Platinum Rule that might be difficult for some is that sometimes a conversation is required to understand what someone truly wants for themselves. It is so much easier to silently imagine what someone else might want, and yet that easy path can lead to a great deal of trouble, particularly in a diverse, multicultural society. Living by the Platinum Rule demands more and better of us, and that is for the best.