From Golden to Platinum

One of the first things I learned as a kindergartener in Sunday School at Burnt Swamp Baptist Church in Lumberton, NC was the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, treat others the way you would like to be treated. Despite the simplicity of this axiom, I never could get my arms around the part about treating others the way I would like to be treated. How could I treat someone like myself who was different from me? Wasn’t I superimposing my values on another person without getting to know them?

When I became a diversity and inclusion trainer, my memories of the limitations of the Golden Rule came back to me as I taught others how to recognize and embrace differences. I was reminded again of how the Golden Rule assumes similarities and not differences. It essentially says you are like me therefore I will treat you like me.

More contemporary diversity and inclusion practitioners recommend taking our game from the Golden Rule to the Platinum Rule. While the Golden Rule has its place, the Platinum Rule emphasizes treating other people the way they want to be treated or at least to be aware of how they want to be treated. This requires the recognition and acceptance of differences. It demands walking in the other person’s shoes because their point of view makes sense in their world.

There is another piece of the Platinum Rule we tend to forget. We need to treat ourselves the way we want to be treated. The fact of the matter is we tend to not treat ourselves very well. Oftentimes we listen to our inner critic rather than our inner champion. We fall victim to negativity bias in a big way.

According to Natalie Wolfson of the Tracom Group, human beings are programmed for negativity bias in two ways-our language and evolution. Of the 558 emotion words in the U.S. English language dictionary, 62% of them are negative and only 38% of them are positive. And, of the most common emotion words that people use, 70% of them are negative. Secondly, we owe the remainder of our negativity bias to our cave man/woman ancestors. Their fight or flight tendencies programmed them to be constantly on the alert from attacks by predators. They realized that their next step could turn themselves into dinner for an equally resilient dinosaur. Those that learned to anticipate such negative consequences and adapt to changing threats increased their chances of survival.

Nowadays, this type of persistence is no longer needed as too many negative thoughts can create unhealthy levels of stress.

Examples of negative self-talk include:
• They are doing this to me on purpose.
• My boss wants to see me therefore I must have done something wrong.
• If I mess up this project, I will lose my job.
• I bombed that last interview. I will never get a new job.

Country music legend George Jones summed up negative self-talk in a lyric from his song, Somebody Always Paints the Wall. “If my old truck was a horse, I would have to shoot it. The day my ship came in, I was waiting for a train. It seems like every time I make my mark, somebody always paints the wall.”

How are you painting your walls? Hopefully in platinum tones as we move from diminishers to multipliers for ourselves and others.

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