Remember the golden rule ?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? It’s a lovely adage, which most of us learned early on and probably teach our kids – a phrase many of us value as a life lesson.

Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with applying the golden rule unto cultural issues – a very big problem.

The golden rule accepts that the way I like to be treated will be the same way you like to be treated. That is the basic philosophical underpinning of “Do unto others.” When applied specifically to cultural problem solving, it assumes that my approach to conflict resolution, decision making, and communicating will be the same as yours.

Many of us have built a personal life strategy around this assumption since we were children. It’s how we’ve dealt with the world. It is a style of survival that is old and revered.

But as a strategy, it has a critical flaw: It is terribly egocentric. It assumes that the way I see the world is the same way you see the world. Thus, my way is the primary way, the right way, the correct way. It’s a logical conclusion if you were raised with the golden rule. However, if you shift your thinking to a different viewpoint, you will open possibilities for potential success that were unavailable before.

Our slant on the world often doesn’t allow us to see the humor or absurdity of our own perspectives. This narrowness impacts the decisions and actions we take to effectively negotiate the differences that usually arise during change.

It’s important to realize the simple axiom that no one sees the world exactly the same way you do. Assuming the golden rule can be inherently dangerous in matters ranging from communication to conflict and negotiation to decision making. This is especially true if implicitly held beliefs and values are enacted without the benefit of setting the context of your thinking.

To be truly effective you must have the capacity to understand, and at times, apply viewpoints other than your own. It requires a new version of the golden rule: “Do unto others the way they want to be done unto.” It’s a small philosophical shift that can make a world of difference.