We all preach it: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s a simple principle: treat others as you wish to be treated. But, what if we’re doing it all wrong?
At only four, my son already knows that everyone – every. single. person. – is unique. We are all our own person. Our different experiences, backgrounds and physiological make-ups are the reason we are all different and special and unique. Because no two people are truly “the same”, it also stands to reason that no two people really want to be treated the same way. Thus, The Golden Rule is actually really wrong.
Take for example, me, since I am the person I know best. I know that I enjoy being challenged – I like being tested, and picked on and I enjoy playing. I have an enormous personality, and you can drop me in almost any environment and I’ll do just fine. In fact, please do leave me to fend for myself at this big event – I want to meet people for myself. Feel free to poke fun at my ugly sweater or my gigantic rubber boots, friend, because I’ll play right back.
But not everyone feels that way. Not everyone likes a challenge. Not everyone shares the same dry sense of humour I have. And so, my “treating others as I wish to be treated” philosophy backfires when I jokingly challenge someone who is shy, or poke (harmless) fun at someone to try to break the ice when we first meet. (This either goes brilliantly or just not at all, FYI.)
Last week, I attended an HR conference. I am not an HR professional. It’s not a realm I’ve spent a lot of time in, though I have hired (and fired) in the past. The first session of the day was one that really struck a chord with me – diversity. How women face sexism in the workplace. How we don’t really know how to handle cultures that are foreign – different. How we can sometimes perceive a threat or insult or, what the speaker referred to as a hi-jacking, when there really was none.
When he mentioned that the Golden Rule is fundamentally flawed, it sparked a huge conversation and I was excited. Truly excited. Because it made sense! Why in the world would we ever think that someone who is NOTHING LIKE US would want to be treated the way we do? Outside of the basics like, you know, respect.
And, on that day in particular, it really did make sense in the strangest of ways. Because I am not an HR professional, I found myself frustrated as Human Resources humour flew around and I was treated, spoken to and marketed towards as though I was an HR professional. I didn’t always get the joke. I couldn’t really relate. It may seem like a stretch, but at the end of the day… I was being treated the way HR professionals wanted to be treated and the only reason it didn’t work? I was an outsider looking in. They’d all feel the same way at a PR conference.
Think about how you want to be treated. Talk to your kids: how do they want to be treated? What about your partner? Sister? Colleagues? We’re all different. Even if we were all the same colour, we’d all have different abilities, (dis)abilities, likes, dislikes, backgrounds, experiences and physiological makeups. Some of us are sensitive. Some are brash. Some of us like warm hugs.
Remember that those likes, dislikes, abilities, (dis)abilities, backgrounds, experiences, physiological makeups – combined with values and morals – determine how we’d like to be treated, and we have no idea what path another has walked. Treat other how they wish to be treated, and uphold the same respect for your own feelings.