"Treat Others How They Want to be Treated". Some call this "The Platinum Rule"

Treat Others How They Want to be Treated

"Treat Others How They Want to be Treated". Some call this "The Platinum Rule"

I often hear the term “treat others how you would want to be treated” used as a foundational point of understanding how to go about communicating to others that you respect them. Some may even call it “the golden rule”.

You don’t like being hit? Don’t hit other people. You don’t like being teased? Don’t tease other people.

It can seem simple, but in reality, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Sometimes, looking solely through the lens of our own lived experiences to find what are, and are not acceptable ways to communicate what respect is can create conflict in relationships.

What works for us individually, may not work for someone else.

For example, have you ever known someone whose loved one had died and witnessed someone tell them that the death of that person was a part of God’s plan?  Have you ever said that to someone yourself, or been told that by someone?

In some cases this may be just what someone might need to hear, while in others, it could be the furthest thing from what is appropriate or supportive of them.

What does respect mean to you?

Respect treeOne day, after talking with a group about some of the differences between debate and dialogue, we began to collaboratively construct guidelines for what we thought would be helpful for creating an environment that was safe enough, yet challenging enough to allow us to teach and learn from one another in a genuine way.

Although establishing group guidelines is intended to be an all-inclusive activity with no ideas being turned away, in the process of that particular event the climate moved more toward a debate than a dialogue because the decision making process in terms of what should be included was being approached from an “either or” perspective.

“Well this is what’s helpful to me…”

“But this is what helps me…..”

“I don’t feel like I should have to do that, I like this…”

“You most definitely should do that. Since I was a baby, I was taught….”

I was taught

That very important point was helpful in moving things forward. We are all taught certain things about what it means to be caring and respectful, but if we forget that what works for us might not work for someone else, our actions may demonstrate apathy and disrespect and the real message that we want to convey might not get across.

Treat others the way they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others.

For me, it all comes back to ubuntu. It all comes back to service.

One day when I was in Social Work school, a professor of mine recalled an experience from many years ago to give us an example that highlighted the importance of listening, having cultural humility, as well as to serve as a cautionary tale of what not to do while having our field experience.

In the story, a social work student had travelled to another country to fulfill their field experience. While there the student worked with members of a small village on various activities that were meant to ensure a good quality of life.

The student noticed that only a few of the members of the village would often go to the same location to get water, and would only go so far into the water before collecting it in a bucket, and returning home.

After noticing this for some time, the student thought the group could get much more water  in much less time by going further in, and by forming an assembly line of several people. To this student, it was silly to do otherwise.

The student went about trying to implement this idea, and was asked to leave by the village elders.

The members of that village had to share the water with members of other surrounding villages, and going “further in” and taking more could violate delicate agreements that had been established between the villages, some of which were established to keep the peace after violent conflict.

I don't care what you sayNo matter what area we may choose to serve in, be it Social Work, Counseling, Education, Health Care, Politics, Hospitality, or any other practice which involves interacting with other people, helpers can have a bad reputation of going in and deciding what is “right” or “necessary” for others without any input or direction from the people whom they are supposed to be serving, and whom will be directly impacted by their actions or inactions.

As Helpers, treating others how we want to be treated can also cause us to ignore any power and privilege dynamics that might exist just because of who we are in relation to the people we are trying to help.

One way we can work to increase our ability to serve in a way that we are needed is to ask for clarification. Instead of saying “this is how it’s going to go“, we can ask questions like “What do you need from me? or “How can I be most helpful to you?”

Treat others how they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others. Find out what “help” means to others. Getting to that place is a process that can only be created together with the people, and not alone for the people.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW



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Written by

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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10 Responses

  1. therapydoc says:

    I really like what you have to say, Relando, and am going to link over here from my blog. Happy New Year.

  2. relando,
    Like your post and always have thought “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” as arogance.
    So dittoto your comments.
    What is ubuntu?

    • Hello Russell,

      Ubuntu is an African Philosophy which emphasizes interdependence, collaboration, and connection. It means “I am who I am because of other people” and makes a point to say that no one can do it alone, that whatever knowledge, success, or growth that we currently have, we did not gain that as a result of simply our own efforts, but that other people have contributed and helped us along the way to get to where we are.

      So as an example, I am who I am because my parents were, because my family was, because my teachers were, and other kind people who have poured into me along the way that have helped me to develop into the person I am today.

      I think Ubuntu also means that what we do impacts others as well. In addition to looking it up for more exploration, check out my page, Ubuntu: A Humanitarian’s Philosophy.

  3. This was a great read, I will be sharing this out. The “Golden Rule” has many interpretations, but in the end they all lead to finding true respect for your fellow man and woman by opening your mind.

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