I was taught at an early age the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I even thought I did a fairly good job of practicing it in most relationships.
However, it is interesting to note that the Golden Rule focuses on you, the doer. What if the recipient wants to be “done unto” in a manner different than I would?
Before I share with you the definition of the Platinum Rule and how it differs from the Golden Rule, I’d like to share how I discovered it. I believe the path of discovery is of immense value.
In 2004, I had the great fortune to be a civilian volunteer for a company of U.S. Marines deployed to Iraq. One of my personal heroes was a member of this company: my younger brother, Captain Matthew Phillips.
As part of his duty, upon returning from Iraq after having been wounded in Fallujah, Matthew served as a Casualty Assistant Call Officer (CACO). A CACO is a Marine officer responsible for the personal notification of a Marine’s designated next of kin in the event a Marine is killed or mortally wounded in combat action. In addition, a CACO coordinates the return of the deceased Marine’s remains, planning of the family funeral, command of the escort and burial details, presentation of the ceremonial flag draping the coffin, and all administration and processing of surviving family member death and insurance benefits.
A CACO keeps a dedicated cell phone with them at all times for the express use of being notified of a Marine killed in action. Upon receipt of such a call, a CACO arrives unannounced on the doorstep of a home to personally deliver the news of the loss to the Marine’s family members, regardless of time of day, weather or location.
Now, I have had to personally deliver some very tough news in my life, but it is unimaginable to me how these Marine officers have the ability — all without special screening, personality profiling, communication or grief counseling skills assessment, and with minimal administrative training — are able to conduct such an emotionally wrenching mission.
And that’s not even accounting for the unknown and unforeseen response of the family members receiving the news every service member’s family dreads and prays will never come. Talk about true heroes.
The Platinum Rule was revealed to me in the answer to a very simple, direct question I asked Matthew: “How are you able to perform your duty, not knowing how people will react to such news?”
The true beauty of the answer was in its elegant simplicity: “I do it in the way I would want someone to do it for my wife, child, mother or father.”
That made logical sense and fit within my understanding of the Golden Rule. But it was Matthew’s next statement that completely caught me off-guard and opened my eyes to the true power of the heroic servant’s Platinum Rule: “Then I try as quickly as I can to determine how they want me to engage with them. And I adapt my behavior to their desires.”
Wham! When I heard those words, it was like all the tumblers in the combination lock of my mind fell into place, and a new door unlocked and opened. The power of the Platinum Rule was revealed.
Wisdom: Do unto others as they want to be done unto.
It’s not about me and my needs; it’s all about them and their wants. I adapt to meet their wants, needs and desires to better serve them, and in so doing, I achieve my purpose. But I was burning to learn how to put this new principle into practice.
So, if the Platinum Rule is the standard for heroic service and is predicated upon treating people in the manner in which they want to be treated, rather than projecting how we would like to be treated in a particular situation…
How in the world can I know how someone else want to be treated?
Of course, most of us are not clairvoyant, so how can we know how people want to be treated? I posed the question directly to the steady Marine officer, who simply answered, “I ask.” The great thing about Marines is, when you ask a question, you get a direct answer; I’ve never met a “flower-mouthed” Marine. Again, clarity in brevity is a unique gift.
Ask! Ask how they want to be treated, their preferred manner of communication, their deepest wants, needs, desires, aspirations and fears, so that we may serve them in the manner they desire to be served.
Sound too simple to be true?
Simple, YES. Easy, NO.
Not because it’s difficult or mysterious, or we lack the intellectual capacity or communication skills. It’s not easy because we have not been trained in or haven’t practiced the proper questioning techniques to reveal the underlying desires of those we wish to serve.
The difficulty of applying the Platinum Rule is also the result of being behaviorally conditioned for immediate gratification in everything we do: “Give me the answer, I don’t have the time or patience to earn it.” As a result, most of us are poor questioners, and, rather than truly having an interest in genuine answers to bona-fide questions, we seek validation of a presupposed belief based upon what we want to get, our experiences, or our preconceived ideas.
In other words, we spend most of our time asking lame, thoughtless questions with little intention of truly hearing and understanding the answers to the questions we ask.
For the questions to ask check out BREAKAWAY: The Secret to Selling Success – Heroic Service.