For those of you who have kept up with my previous blogs, you may have noticed my love for acknowledging/toying around with popular sayings and clichés. I consider this important and enjoyable because so many of us have built up strong beliefs and values that are based solely on these man-made psychological/behavioral concepts. Such sayings have become ingrained in many of us as automatic set rules that we not only follow ourselves, but continue to teach our children, students, clients, etc. Anything that is influencing our minds, behaviors, and global functioning to this level, I feel, is worth exploring.
I’m assuming you noticed what I did to this blog’s title, right? Perhaps it rattled your brain for a moment as it challenged the mantra you’re so used to, OR maybe your brain simply “auto-corrected” the title to make it into the saying you assumed it should be. It’s possible you may not have even read passed the first two words in the title due to your confidence that you knew where the rest was going…
Well, ha! Either way, whatever potential reaction of surprise, intrigue, or confusion the title may have ignited just goes to show how valuable it is to introduce a fresh twist to our set perspectives from time to time.
So perhaps you’re wondering what’s wrong with the immensely popular idea “treat others the way YOU want to be treated.” Well, nothing really. The message therein is nothing other than to ensure our showing of the kindness, respect, and love to others that we would want to feel ourselves, as well as our refraining from promoting the kind of hurt and disrespect toward and devaluing of others that we wouldn’t want from them; a message of true beauty and inarguable-significance.
For this reason, I want to make clear that my suggestion to treat others the way THEY want to be treated is not meant as a “correction” to a flawed philosophy. Instead, my purpose here is only to offer an equally-valuable alternative; an alternative that is likely to fit more accurately within certain contexts/life situations and therefore broaden our opportunities for greater success in our jobs, relationships, etc., even more.
So how do we treat others the way they want to be treated? The thought is likely to bring up some anxiety or frustration as there may not seem to be such an easy answer. What if they never tell us what they want or don’t want? How are we supposed to read their minds? Isn’t it easier to just assume that whatever makes us happy will make them happy too?
Believe it or not, the answer is simpler than we think and is actually maintained, in part, by our beloved “treat others the way you want to be treated” moral code. If we can assume that all others are likely striving to treat us the way they would like to be treated themselves, then in whatever they do for us it becomes quite clear how they would like to be treated too, right?
Let’s go over some examples:
It’s likely safe to assume that your spouse or parent who clears away your plate after dinner every night and proceeds to wash it for you is letting you know that he/she finds that to be the right and caring way to show you love. In taking note of this, you may want to try being the one to do this task and see what kind of impact it has. Explain to your partner/parent, “I’ve noticed you do this for me every night and I appreciate it. I’d like to start doing it for you too."
It may also make sense to assume that if our partners make a big deal about our birthdays every year (even when we plead for them not to!) it likely hints at the way they feel about THEIR birthdays. Now, suppose in this scenario we treat our partners the way we want to be treated ourselves... … sadly, doesn’t sound like they would be having many birthday wishes coming true any time soon. What’s just as unfair is that our partners are not listening to/obeying our birthday requests either! Instead, they end up treating us the way THEY would like to be treated, which doesn’t make us (in the example given here) ever happy either now does it? Perhaps if we finally put a stop to this madness and start giving our partners the kinds of birthday celebrations THEY clearly value, then they can quit trying so hard to live through OUR birthdays and we can finally start having the quiet birthdays we’ve been begging for and everybody’s happy :)
What about communication? Think about how your partner approaches you whenever he or she needs to talk to you about something. Is it usually in the morning? Late at night? Does he or she seem to enjoy conversations most while driving, sitting in a quiet restaurant, or taking a walk with you? How does he/she talk to you during arguments? Loud and swearing, or with a softer and more saddened tone? Pay attention to your partner’s moments of greatest clarity, energy, and language style and begin allowing more opportunities for this kind of contact with him or her as often as possible (being careful to no longer continue depending on forcing phone conversations on your lunch-break, or other times that may be convenient for you but no one else…or arguing with others in triggering ways).
Treating others the way THEY want to be treated can also help us at work. Like if you take notice of a business client’s tendency to show up early or on time for every meeting with you, it is likely that you can assume that punctuality is something of clear value to him or her (this of course is something to pay attention to in our personal relationships as well). Knowing this, it is safe to expect that your effort to also be early/on time for all meetings moving forward would make a great impression and potentially solidify this professional contact for you even more.This client may be inclined to continue giving you business and talk you up to other clients just based on your mirroring his standard of professionalism and respect in this way that you or other professionals may not have always taken as seriously yourselves.
Same even goes for our next-door neighbors. Even that older-retired gentleman just across the property line who spends the day looking out the window ensuring that his grass hasn’t grown too long, or that the bushes don’t need more trimmin’ (not sure why this is the image that came to mind). Anyway, this neighbor clearly values a nicely-maintained property and shows love and respect for the neighborhood by keeping up with it. As his neighbor, despite the lesser standards or more limited time you may have for your property maintenance, it would likely serve you well to keep this kind fellow on your side by putting some love and energy into your own yard whenever possible (rather than allowing your own grass or bushes to grow wild and disturbing this poor man’s hard-earned view). Nothing like a happy neighborhood.
Getting the idea? The same concept is likely to help along many other areas of our lives as well, including sex, cooking/cleaning, plan-making/organization, vacations, driving habits, finances, social media, showing support of career/interests, etc. It is important for us to acknowledge and start putting more weight on others’ cares and ways of doing things because these particular things may never naturally show up on our own radar as what should be considered valuable. It is too easy to miss signals when just relying on our own perspectives of what love, respect, and kindness look like.
As nice as it is to treat others the way you want to be treated, it seems to be a no-brainer that what would be even nicer is to treat them the way THEY want to be treated. The results could be so much better for all involved.
Let’s make sure to pass this one on ;)