Treat other people the way you want to be treated. I grew up attending Sunday School, and this Golden Rule is one of the first and most important lessons I learned in my youth.
Except it doesn’t translate as well as everyone hopes into day-to-day communication. Communicating with others the way you communicate or want to be communicated to doesn’t always work.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”CX009″ via=”yes” ]The Golden Rule doesn’t always work[/ctt]
I like to talk, and sometimes I’m loud. I’m not as good at listening as I should be. I interrupt, get excited, and go off on wild tangents. I’m 100 percent fine if you do the same back. If you interrupt me, don’t worry, as I’ll interrupt you back if I decide what I need to say is more important.
Some of you are laughing as you recognize you are exactly the same. Some of you think you should unsubscribe to my newsletter as this is hardly the behavior a professional should have, and it is the type of communicator that frustrates you every day!
If we applied the Golden Rule to communication, we would ruin our reputations and careers. What message am I sending when I interrupt you even though it doesn’t really bother me?
If I want to be left alone to my thoughts and decide the best way to communicate that message is to not respond to you at all (aka the “silent” treatment), am I really communicating professionally and respectfully? I am treating you the way I want to be treated, but should I be doing that?
We are always communicating, but we aren’t always sending the right message.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”5dN9c” via=”yes” ]We are always communicating, but we aren’t always sending the right message[/ctt]
We need to focus instead on flexible communication rather than the Golden Rule.
Clarity is important, and clarity typically happens with brevity. Less is more, and the long-drawn-out conversation isn’t needed in business. It is tempting to say that we now communicate at work in bullet point form, although that isn’t entirely true (it does feel like it, though). Be concise and to the point. Think about what you want to say before you say it.
Stay in the moment. You may believe you can multitask and respond to a text while having coffee with me or a quick conversation as we walk down the hall. The problem isn’t whether you can do that or not; the problem is how it makes me feel. It makes me feel the text is more important than I am. And while there are times when that is the case, stay away from multitasking when you are having a conversation. If you really do need to keep your eyes on your phone, tell me in advance instead of looking at every text and deciding which one you will answer. The message that multitasking sends is the problem, not the actual multitasking. Show the other person that you value the time you are spending together. The conversation you are having is the top priority you currently have and what you should focus on.
When we apply the Golden Rule, we are being self-centered; concerned with what we want (treat other people the way we want to be treated) when we should be far more focused on the other person. How do they want to be communicated to? What works for them? We need to be flexible, which means there are multiple ways to do and say things. If they prefer email or text, then be flexible and communicate in the style that works best for them. Flexibility to style is the key. Pay attention to what others want instead of focusing on what you want.
The Golden Rule has many good applications, and it is a good guiding principle in theory. But when it comes to communication, we need to apply the Platinum Rule, which was made famous by Dr. Tony Alessandra: Treat other people the way they want to be treated.