When I was in first grade, my teacher had this laminated gold piece of paper (with poorly placed ruler markings) with a saying on it that was above the chalkboard. “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Got it. It was a good reminder. It is one that most kids (and adults) hear constantly. It is easy to remember, and relatively easy to apply. But I am proposing a corollary to the golden rule. Let me explain.
When you’re a kid, this saying works really well. Would you like it if someone hit you? No? Ok, then don’t hit someone. Would you like it if someone stole your toy? No? Then don’t steal toys. Pretty black and white so far. I’m all about the black and white, so this is great.
Then, you start to grow up and situations start to get a bit more complicated. Take cheating for example. This is how a conversation would go in my head:
Friend: Hey, can I have your homework to copy?
Thinking to Self: Golden Rule. I would like it if someone helped me out when I needed extra help. It is nice to help people. You are supposed to help people.
Me: Sure. (Hands it over.)
Thinking to Self: Hang on a second. Aren’t you not supposed to cheat? So I’m helping someone (good) but cheating (bad). Shoot.
Now it’s no longer black and white. Some people are really good at knowing what to do in those gray-ish situations. I am not one of those people. I hate gray. I don’t get it. It makes me so confused. I could argue with myself about that situation forever and still not come to a conclusion. I want to have friends. Helping people would help me have friends. But now helping someone in this situation is wrong. So when is it right?
Now, you’re in college. You’re driving home for a weekend and see a homeless man on the side of the road with a sign asking for money. The golden rule says to treat others how you would like to be treated. Well, if I’m homeless and need some money, then I sure would like it if someone gave me their change or a couple bucks. But you aren’t supposed to talk to strangers. And you don’t open your wallet in front of strangers. And you don’t stop when you’re trying to get home to see your family. And since when did the golden rule become so dang complicated? (Maybe this stuff is clear to you, but honestly, it isn’t to me. Welcome to Asperger’s.)
Now, you’re a graduate assistant. You do way more than you are paid for. You do things way out of your job description. You have to. You know this is how to get where you want to go. And that ring looks pretty amazing. This is where the corollary to the Golden Rule comes into play. When you’re a graduate assistant, when you’re in any sort of people pleasing business (which is all of them), then it is no longer about how YOU want to be treated. At this point, you treat others the way THEY want to be treated. You have to. It’s the only way to get anywhere. And you have to do it with a smile on your face and you have to learn to enjoy doing it. Because the journey is the destination.
This corollary definitely does not give a solution to some situations regarding the golden rule. It still doesn’t make situations black and white. It doesn’t apply in every situation. Mostly, I think it applies in “sales” positions, which coaching basically is, or in positions that you are trying to please clients or bosses. There’s that gray matter still though, because you can’t always treat others how they would like to be treated. Maybe they are dishonest. Maybe they are dirty rotten scoundrels. Unfortunately, I don’t think you will always know.
However, in my position, where I am right now, knowing this corollary gives me perspective. Ultimately, treating others how they want to be treated gives me satisfaction in my position and in doing my job. My job is to treat others how they want to be treated. I might not want to be treated that way, but it’s not about me. It’s about my head coach. It’s about my leader. If you want to be perfectly honest about it, it’s about my journey. How hard I work now and how I treat others now will determine the opportunities I have in the future. More than likely, the same goes for you.
So next time you think that you’re being taken advantage of or that someone is doing wrong by you, I would encourage you to consider the corollary to the golden rule. Because it’s not about you and it’s not about me (and it still isn’t black and white). It’s about how we serve others.