Coaching Article – Rescue Work Relationships with the Platinum Rule

By Lee Ellis

Communicating and working with an opposite personality can be a daunting task, and it takes a mature level of interpersonal skill to do it effectively. But there’s a foundational rule that can help.

In our training workshops, we talk about managing differences by analyzing the strengths and struggles of two people with opposite natural talents—the very successful outside salesman Jason and the very successful systematic, accurate accountant, Sophia. Now let’s look at them working together as teammates.

Oil and Water Don’t Naturally Mix

Clearly, these two are like night and day—oil and water—and they don’t appear to go together. The irony is that not only do you need both people operating at full engagement, but they need each other and can make a great team if they work together toward a Platinum Rule relationship. We use this term a lot in our DNA Behavior training because it’s simple, and it complements the Golden Rule.

“The Platinum Rule says – ‘Do unto others as they would like to be done unto.’” [Tweet This]

Lee describes it further in this month’s Leading with Honor Coaching—please watch this brief clip and add your comments as you watch –

It turns out that this is one of the most powerful ways to enable action and carry out the Golden Rule. The Platinum rule is about accepting (and even celebrating) someone’s differences in the same way that we would like others to accept and celebrate ours. It’s easy to affirm someone’s strengths but becomes a challenge (and thus, a true gift) when we learn to accept the struggles that come with them.Consider Others and Adapt

In our example of Sophia and Jason, the Platinum Rule means that each must adapt some of their natural ‘go to’ behaviors when they are together to relate to the other person the way they (the other person) prefer as opposed to demanding they adapt to them. If the reserved (and distant) Sophia acts friendlier to Jason and he limits his effusive expression around her, their dynamics can change dramatically. This tactic goes back to the leverage gained by adapting; a little change can make a big difference and immediately provides two benefits:

  1. Each person is showing respect and gaining respect from the other, thus increasing trust.
  2. Adapting brings out the best in both and facilitates alignment so they can work better together.

As you might suspect, adapting to align our behaviors with others can be a very challenging undertaking and requires a great deal of self-awareness. But you can see that managing differences by considering both strengths and struggles are needed for good collaboration. With this minor adjustment, these two individuals can be more productive and less stressed each day.

Teams and the Platinum Rule

Now, let’s consider Sophia and Jason’s scenario in the context of a larger team. Teams are collections of individuals, and each one is unique and that means there will be some differences. Differences naturally divide, yet teams need cohesion, trust, and unity.

“When people know themselves and understand that others are different, they can learn to accept and respect differences.” [Tweet This]

This is also where the Platinum Rule comes into play. We can adapt our behaviors to fit their needs to bridge the gap of differences.

With this understanding and the essential qualities of acceptance and respect, people learn to value the unique talents of others. This makes it much easier to set aside judgment and skepticism and allow others to be themselves. Many of us learned that most of what we see in others’ behaviors are not about how they experience or react to us. It’s simply people being themselves, and we don’t need to take it personally.

So much of what gets in the way of relationships is that we focus first on others’ struggles, which can impact how we relate to them. The bottom line is that the behaviors of others who are quite different from us usually irritate us, and we judge them because they don’t respond the way that we might respond in any given situation. It’s so easy to take their conduct personally or judge it as a character problem, when in fact, it’s just their struggles—part of their unique DNA. And it’s likely that they are not seeing our struggles clearly either.

These insights, often gained in face-to-face team workshop experiences, accelerate trust allowing transparency and vulnerability, which lead to even more trust. The foundation for this more accepting perspective is anchored in people gaining self-awareness and self-confidence that comes from accepting themselves as okay while not being perfect.


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