Not So Golden Rule

One of the first lessons children are taught regarding kindness is to “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” The Golden Rule is a moral standard found across religious and spiritual texts, as well as academia, also referred to as the “ethic of reciprocity.”

Respected authorities have long considered The Golden Rule a best practice to dictate how thoughtful humans treat each other. Some current thinking among psychologists believe this common truism may lack empathy and genuine care.

According to Pratibha Anand, in Psych Central sheds new light on The Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule can be viewed as self-serving. When we evaluate another person’s situation and place our own feelings of how we might wish to be treated, we often fail to recognize their experiences and current needs. Anand writes, “Can you think of a time when you did something for somebody that you would have loved or appreciated only to have the other person respond negatively? Their reaction might have been due to the fact that you projected what might have been best for you in a given situation onto someone else who may have felt differently.”

For us to exercise true kindness, we need to “step into the other person’s shoes” and consider their perspective. “Sometimes, it is as simple as asking a person what they want or need.”

This context of the Not So Golden Rule is especially poignant in business. Eliot M. Wagonheim’s article in the Huffington Post emphasizes this position: If I’m shopping at Home Depot… I can peruse the aisles of power drills and learn all about torque… power… battery life. That’s all well and good, but that’s what’s important to the manufacturer. I just want to know whether this is the thing I have to buy in order to hang the cabinets in my garage.

The Golden Rule may not be perfect.  An underlying belief that all deserve respect and consideration upheld for one’s self is noble. Focusing selfishly on our wants and our needs as opposed to understanding what another needs may yield satisfaction, but for whom? If building healthy, genuinely connected relationships is the goal, sensitivity of another’s plight is what an astute human practices.


“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness you have manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Emily Post

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 at 6:23 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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