This past Monday, on a whim, I checked out the audiobook of Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.
It was a dangerous whim. The book, which had been on my radar since I'd heard the authors interviewed on On Being, a podcast I've mentioned before here. I knew what the book was about: coping with grief. I wasn' t quite prepared for the buttons it would press for me, the way it would subtly entice me to revisit depths of grief I haven't visited in a while. I could go on (and might, in a future post) about the weird sore-spot prodding regimen I seem to have set up for myself this October, but as I'm currently only on disc 2 of 5, let's keep this simple: Have you heard of the Platinum Rule?
Because I heard about it yesterday. Twice.
The first time was, of course, in the aforementioned audiobook. I was just a few blocks into my commute home from Beverly Hills when I heard the book tell me that perhaps rather than following the Golden Rule -- Treat others as you would want to be treated -- we could aspire beyond that to a "Platinum Rule": Treat others as they would want to be treated. In this context, the Platinum Rule was a reminder that true caring for another person (perhaps a person in pain) should mean not assuming that what they want or need is what you'd want or need in the same situation. Instead, we should tune into them, or (radical notion!) actually ASK them earnestly about what would best suit their needs.
It's a tall order, but one worth at least keeping in mind. Opening oneself to the mere idea of the Platinum Rule means remembering that we can go beyond just assuming everyone's needs and reactions are the same as our own. And that could shift our behavior in ways that leads to deeper relationships and more fulfilling lives for us and for those around us.
Have you ever learned a new word only to suddenly hear it everywhere? I've had this experience, but usually it takes a day or two for the phrase to start popping up. "The Platinum Rule," however, took under an hour to reappear. In fact, I was still in the car, still commuting home from Beverly Hills (this is, in part, a testament to the length of time it takes to drive eight miles in LA during rush hour). I was listening to the latest episode of Note to Self, a show which has been looming large in my life this week, having been the inspiration of both a sermon and a dinner talk by the new Episcopal Bishop Coadjutor of LA, John Tayor, both of which I happened to be in attendance for, but that's another story. The topic of the show was not Option B or anything like it; they were discussing the way modern technology habits often drive us to neglect people we care about, rather than get closer to them. It's a compelling episode (and great sermon fodder, I might add).
About halfway through the short episode, host Manoush Zomorodi says to her guest, psychologist Esther Perel, that she's been thinking more about "The Platinum Rule." I made a face when I heard the words. "What the hell?" the face said. The context couldn't be more different. They weren't talking about dealing with friends who were coping with tragedy, they were talking about calling your friend back or answering a text. (Later in the episode, however, they did talk about calling a friend coping with tragedy.)
The implication is clear enough: whether we're talking everyday interactions or life-changing upheaval, if we're communicating with others, consider following the Platinum Rule . I think the fact that this idea is in the air, and catching, is a sign that it might just be a good one.