Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of year… Until it’s not.
The rush to get gifts and mail them, to make travel plans, to cook, and clean, and decorate – it can be a very stressful time. And that’s not even mentioning the stress that being with people can bring.
If you’re stressing about being with friends and family that you may not have seen for months or years this holiday, read on to learn how to one-up the Golden Rule and have the most peaceful season ever.
Wait, you can one-up the Golden Rule?
Yes! And thankfully, it’s easier than it sounds. From a very young age we were all taught the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
But sometimes the Golden Rule doesn’t go far enough.
The Golden Rule assumes that the way I want to be treated is how others want to be treated. That the way I prefer to communicate applies to all people. And that underneath, our motivations are the same. Experience shows that’s just not true.
Enter the Platinum Rule
The Platinum Rule asserts that we need to treat others the way they want to be treated. It acknowledges that we each have different motivators, stressors, goals, fears, and priorities.
For instance, just because you like direct communication and want to move at a fast pace, doesn’t mean that everyone around you is comfortable with that. Or just because you value time to reflect and ruminate on decisions and are an emotionally geared person doesn’t mean that others share this perspective.
This is a large part of what we teach our Creating a Culture of Renewal® cohorts. We’ve worked with church leaders over the past 15 years and have found that by understanding these concepts and being aware of differences in communication styles, our participants are able to move from frustrating relationships to fruitful conversations with those they once found problematic.
I thought you said this would be easy…
I stand by that. By practicing and employing empathy and emotional intelligence, you will quickly find that you can effectively communicate with even the most difficult people in your life.
Begin to notice how others are communicating with you and do likewise. When those around you communicate in a direct and fast-paced manner, try doing the same with them. Don’t worry about offending them, they will likely appreciate your efforts to operate in their preferred way. When those around you need time to process all of the details and facts before making a decision, give them that time. Being insistent doesn’t give them the space they need to clearly think through their options and feeling restrained in this way can easily lead to unnecessary arguments.
Do your best to ascribe good motives to each person. Understand that they may just have a different way of doing things. Set aside your personal communication preferences. Instead, focus on what they are actually saying. As you get more comfortable with the Platinum Rule, gently point out how your preferences and theirs vary, without making either of you wrong or right. Assume the Spirit is equally alive and well in each of you, and that you are each friends of Jesus. Understand the implications that having to be right has and decide if you would rather be right, or have a productive relationship with another.
The Polarization Trap
We now live in a world where polarizing beliefs and values have crept into every segment of our lives. Many people are content with maintaining the “us vs. them” mindset, as long as it means that their view is “right” and someone else gets to be “wrong.”
These polarizations are false dichotomies. The more you buy into us vs. them, the more you solidify a false construct. It’s not that we don’t have very different ways of looking at the world, embracing change, or understanding holiness. We do. However, these different ways are not necessarily sinful…they are simply different. All the polarizations that exist now are temporary. Did you know that churches once fought over whether indoor plumbing should be allowed? Or if women could wear pants? The act of choosing up sides takes us father and farther from Jesus’ command to love one another as I have loved you. Instead of insisting on your preferences practice finding, identifying, and focusing on common underlying values.
Ready to give it a try for yourself?
As you move into the holidays, focus your efforts on acknowledging and understanding the ways in which you’re different from those around you. Be aware that while your approaches may not be the same, you have the ability to offer love and understanding anyway. Work to find the middle ground and see what develops once you move into that space.
Still need some more guidance? I’m hosting a Platinum Rule Leadership for Changing Times workshop in January that explores these concepts in more depth. This fun and interactive 3-session workshop promotes self-awareness, forgiveness, compassion, and understanding.
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