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The Golden Rule versus The Platinum Rule

By Megan Biffi | 25 April 2019 |
Golden vs platinum rule

Beyond the Golden Rule

When you were growing up, there is a very good chance that you were taught the Golden Rule: “Treat others as YOU would like to be treated”.

The problem with the Golden Rule is that it is based on the assumption that we are all the same, and, therefore, everyone would like to be treated the way YOU would like to be treated... but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, the opposite is true. All of us are different and unique. We each have different perspectives, motivations, and needs. How, then, could we really think that everyone wants to be treated exactly the way WE would like to be treated?

The Platinum Rule

While the intent of the Golden Rule is good, what it actually does is promote the idea that we should project our own needs and desires onto others. The rule fails to acknowledge the value of self-awareness, being curious about others’ needs, and the practice of empathy.

For this reason, many have begun to apply the Platinum Rule: “Treat others as THEY would like to be treated.” Unlike the Golden Rule, the Platinum Rule understands and accommodates the fact that not everyone wants to be treated the same way. It says that we should treat people how they want to be treated, regardless of how we personally prefer to be treated in similar situations. It shifts the focus of relationships from “this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing” to “let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.” 

Following the Platinum Rule would not require you to change your personality, but we would need to know ourselves and others well enough to understand that the way we want to be treated or what makes us happy is not necessarily the same for others. For example, someone who has been typed as an Enneagram 7 is likely to enjoy their freedom and as a result, would not appreciate you, who has been typed an Enneagram 1, imposing rules and structure onto them just because that is something that you thrive on. By the same token, someone who has been typed an Enneagram 2 and consequently enjoys building relationships and collaboration, would not be impressed if you, who has been typed an Enneagram 5, were to ask them to work independently and in isolation from others just because that is what you prefer to do.

Using the Enneagram to live by the Platinum Rule

How, then, do we gain this deeper sense of self-awareness and curiosity, as well as enable ourselves to practice empathy more effectively? One very powerful way is to turn to the Enneagram. The Enneagram fast-tracks self-awareness by offering a lens through which to view our deepest behavioural drivers. Rather than boxing people into stereotypes, it acknowledges and respects each person’s complexity and uniqueness. By doing so, it reveals the patterns that underpin why we behave in certain ways.

The Enneagram also inspires compassion and develops empathy by helping us understand the needs and perspectives of others. Seeing the intentions, challenges, and logic of other Enneagram Types makes us less likely to dismiss, judge, or demean others, and often leads to improved compassion, empathy, curiosity, and communication. This helps people relate to one another and also understand themselves and how they fit into a team or group context more clearly.

Similar to the Platinum Rule, the Enneagram promotes the idea that each of us is complex and unique. We need to understand our own filters and the filters of others and apply this knowledge by practising compassion and empathy in treating others the way they want to be treated.

Beyond the Platinum Rule

"Growth occurs at the edge of your comfort zone" -Jesse Lyn Stoner

The Golden Rule could be construed as a misguided attempt at kindness, especially considering that it implies ignoring the needs of others in favour of imposing our preferences onto them. The Platinum Rule is a much more empathetic, compassionate moral guideline. The question that comes to mind when exploring the application of the Platinum Rule is: Should we treat people EXACTLY as they WANT to be treated? By doing this, are we not enabling others to remain in their comfort zones and stifling their growth? It is for this exact reason that the Titanium Rule alludes to the idea that perhaps we should not treat people exactly as they want, because maybe that doesn’t encourage people out of their comfort zones and into growth.

The Titanium Rule implies that we cannot always give people what they WANT, but that we can rather give them what they NEED.

We need to remind ourselves that while others may have a preferred way of being treated, this represents their desire to remain in a comfortable place, where they feel least challenged or threatened. It does not mean that what they WANT is exactly what they NEED. At the same time, we also have to remind ourselves that it would be somewhat arrogant of us to determine what others’ comfort zones are and whether something is wanted or needed. We need to not only be self-aware, but also aware of the effect our behavioural decisions have on others.

Embracing diversity and complexity

Developing compassionate and empathic relationships with others is a challenging task when we take the time to consider the complexities of human nature. When we look at others through the lens of the Enneagram, we realise that the Golden Rule seems to be more self-centered than kind, and that the Platinum Rule’s other-oriented approach seems to be more accepting of our differences. The Titanium Rule teaches us that, though we may be aware of what WE want, and may even be well attuned to what OTHERS want, we may not know exactly what others’ comfort zones are or precisely what they NEED. By understanding these concepts, we can find more effective ways to tread around people’s comfort zones; ensuring that we help others in useful, compassionate ways that allow for positive growth.