The Platinum Rule

and the Silver Rule

You’ve heard of the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.

I think it’s incomplete. I think people actually operate by a higher standard. I propose the Platinum Rule: Treat others as THEY want to be treated.

The Platinum Rule

To understand how I got here, you have to understand that I have some particular personality traits that make the Platinum Rule relevant for me. I prefer directness. My bar for “done” is lower than yours. I like self aware people and humor. I prefer tough love.

This means I prefer shipping an imperfect thing and iterating rather than lining up my ducks in a row. This means I don’t engage in compliment sandwiches. This means I make fun of myself and anything I strongly identify with, which can sometimes include people I work with. This means I often am too harsh on something I care about.

Some of you are reading and nodding and don’t see what’s wrong. That’s what’s wrong.

Suppose you ridiculously simplify human preferences down to More Particular vs Less Particular, and human interaction down to how you treating others vs how you want to be treated. The Golden Rule would advise More Particular humans to treat others like they want to be treated, which is a higher standard (however you define it) than Less Particular humans. This is fine, they just end up very considerate. However, if the Less Particular people were to take this advice, they would come up complete assholes to More Particular humans, who would be unable to work with them.

Hence, the Golden Rule is broken. It was made by a More Particular person who doesn’t realize it.

It doesn’t really even matter what the relative quantities of More Particular vs Less Particular people are - if these people are to work together, then they must coexist under a different social contract.

I propose the Platinum Rule to be that contract: Treat others as THEY want to be treated.

On one hand this seems like basic human decency: Of course you should be considerate of others’ feelings. Use their pronouns. Respect their agency and freedom.

On the other, it can seem FAR too accommodative - what if people abuse the system and want to be treated unreasonably well? Double standards exist everywhere when it comes to self interest. Well, a line must be drawn somewhere.

It’s imperfect, but probably the right balance of where you and I should operate is somewhere in between the Golden Rule (extreme self-centered empathy) and the Platinum Rule (extreme other-centered accommodation).

The Silver Rule

While noodling on this on a plane I also thought of a nice coda to this message. If the Platinum Rule is “better” than the Golden Rule, what would a Silver Rule look like? (i like stretching ideas like this, I took that from Brian Chesky)

A Silver Rule would be something that is often treated as secondary to the others, but still important and valuable. And in the format of “Treat x as X wants to be treated”.

Here’s my proposal for a Silver Rule: Treat yourself as you treat others. A nice inversion of the Golden Rule.

In Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Framework, she splits people by how they respond to inner and outer expectations, which seems very apropos to this topic. Questioners are most in need of the Platinum Rule. But Obligers probably need the Silver Rule most.

Self care must not give way to self sacrifice.

Tagged in: #principles #reflections

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