Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Conflict

Don't Misinterpret the Golden Rule

One of the most commonly-quoted prescriptions for human relationships is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” However, with the best of intentions, you may find yourself in relationship hot water if you misinterpret the meaning and spirit of that statement.

Have you noticed that when you want to make someone happy, you tend to do what would make you happy if you were on the receiving end? Do you ever find that your efforts fall flat, despite your efforts? It’s like disappointing your friend by buying her the birthday present that you’ve been eyeing for yourself rather than the one she’s been hinting about.

News flash! People are different, very different. They differ in personality, preferences, motivation, and values. A logical extension of that fact is, the people you relate with are different from you. They don’t necessarily want what you want.

Better Interpretation

Enter the Golden Rule. You work hard to give others what you want in a relationship. You express love and friendship the way you would want it expressed. Problem is, your actions may not be on target at all for that individual.

The real spirit of the Golden Rule may be paraphrased like this: “Treat others as you want to be treated, because that is what you would want others to do for you.”

As a resource for the “how-to’s” of putting this principle into practice, I highly recommend Gary Chapman’s best-selling book, “The Five Love Languages”. Chapman describes five languages by which people like to give and receive expressions of love: quality time, affirming words, gifts, touch, and acts of service. To practice the spirit of the Golden Rule, work hard to understand the preferred language of your partner, child, or friend. When you cross over and “speak their language”, you magnify the chances that your loving message will be understood and appreciated.

Great leaders in the workplace understand this principle. They spend time with each employee, caring enough to ask what that person’s key motivators are. They carefully observe when every person is most energized and productive, then discuss with him or her the aspects of the experience that were most motivating. Thus, though the leader’s styles and preferences may be different from the employee’s, he or she has the necessary information to create the kind of work environment in which each employee can thrive.

Understanding Pays

Certainly, it’s true that there are some things that most humans (unless mentally sick) desire. For instance, we all want respect from others. We enjoy the feeling of being appreciated. We want to be loved. But within those commonly-held categories, there are thousands of unique interpretations and desired actions.

Be willing to invest time in getting to know those with whom you want great relationships. Learn what is important to them. Understand what they want, then flex your own style and preferences to see that, in your interactions, they find the experiences that are important to them.

Right now, stop and think about the relationships with which you are struggling. Could it be that you have mistakenly assumed that your preferences are shared by all? What actions do you need to take today to honor the real Golden Rule?

I once read an odd, but challenging thought.

“I like ice cream. But when I go fishing, I use worms ‘cause fish like worms.”

Think about it.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

back to conflict

linkedin blogs new morning

Become more successful at work and home by applying tips in Dr. Bev’s monthly ezine. Sign up now!

Post Office Box 17918

2013 Hardy Street

Hattiesburg, MS 39401


Copyright © 2009 -- Dr. Bev Smallwood. -- All Rights Reserved | Web Development By: Hartfield Creative

Post Office Box 17918 • 206 S. 28th Ave. • Hattiesburg, MS 39402 • 601.264.0890 • 877.can.lead (266.5323)