I was honored to be a guest on the podcast Use Your Powers for Good by host Carolyn Opher Mozell. The episode will post later in February. Carolyn, a former city official from Baltimore, started her podcast series to “inspire leaders, managers and supervisors to use their powers for good to put more kindness into the world”. After we talked about the importance of creating equitable and inclusive cultures in organizations, Carolyn asked me how I intentionally put more kindness into the world. What a great question for all of us to reflect on!
The first thought that came to my mind is the “platinum rule” – “Do unto others as they’d like done unto them.” Coined by Dr. Tony Allesandra in his book The Platinum Rule, I first learned of the platinum rule when a former manager of mine posted it in his office. I’d grown up familiar with the “golden rule” – “Do unto others as you’d have done unto you.” That made a lot of sense, until I learned about the platinum rule and began to think about the differences. When I apply the golden rule, I am assuming that what works for me will work for another person – that it will meet their needs. Sometimes, it may. In fact, even when it doesn’t, people tend to be generous and appreciate the effort I’ve made. But I have to ask myself – was it really what THAT PERSON needed?
In order to apply the platinum rule, one of the key things I need to do first is to understand the other person better – what is it they really need and want? How does their life experience influence how they want to be treated? If I want to understand their wants and needs, the first thing I need to do is to empathize with them. I wrote about empathy earlier in this space. Empathy means that I work to understand what another person is feeling; I put myself in their position and feel what they are feeling. When I empathize with someone, I can then treat them the way they want to be treated.
To me, having empathy for others and using the platinum rule are the ultimate form of kindness. I am reaching beyond myself, my experiences and feelings, and my own shortcomings to treat someone else the way they want to be treated. This form of kindness is at the root of creating equitable and inclusive spaces, where all members of a given community feel a sense of belonging. As I work with leaders and organizations who are trying to create equitable and inclusive cultures, the challenges can seem daunting. I don’t want to minimize the influence of systemic racism and discrimination that pervades many of these entities. Yet at the same time, one “simple” act for all of us – regardless of our role and responsibility – is to use empathy, apply the platinum rule, and show kindness to those around us. It’s a good starting point…