Jen Bladen

When I teach a lesson on The First Amendment, I always ask if anyone knows the 45 words of the First Amendment. Recently, one of my students offered, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you?” 

Well. No. Not quite. 

When we were little, we were all taught the Golden Rule. We teach it to our students even now that they’re in middle school and high school and even college. (They seem to know it better than they know the First Amendment. Ha!)

It’s vital that children learn the Golden Rule. It’s how we teach them to stop biting each other! It’s how we teach them to be sweet to each other. 

And I contend that it is the scaffold on which we should build the next important lesson. 

“Do unto others as they would have done unto them.”

Treat Others The Way They Prefer To Be Treated.

My friend Jene Harmon was the first person I heard call it the Platinum Rule. (While I wanted to believe he coined the term, of course, he didn’t: check out Tony Allesandra’s book of the same name. I haven’t read it but it seems spot-on.)

As Harmon and I use it, the Platinum Rule is shorthand for a whole host of instructions for life:

  • First, know yourself well.
  • Know your friends’ love languages and try to show your friendship accordingly.
  • Know your friends’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Support their weaknesses and play to their strengths.
  • Have empathy. Show empathy. Live empathy.

Friend, Know Thyself.

“If you want to wield your power well, you have to know who you are.” -John Amaechi

The most important trait of any leader is self-awareness. It’s important for leaders of all stripes to know their own strengths, weaknesses, needs and desires. 

Here are some excellent ways to find out what your traits are both as a leader and as a human. 

  • Discover your love language. Read one of Gary Chapman’s most excellent books, or just take the online quiz. His book changed my life and how I communicate with my friends, family and students.
  • Assess your values. I did this recently with a trusted friend and was blown away by my results! If you’d asked me to list my values, the answers would have been dramatically different than what came up through this process. It’s a key way to build self-awareness, in my humble opinion.
  • Take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator instrument. I’ve taken it at least twice and if memory serves, I’m an ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception). Essentially that means I’m an introverted extrovert — no surprise there. Find a certified MBTI administrator — maybe even on your campus! It’s worth it.

How Do I Know How Others Want To Be Treated?

Encourage (or require?) your whole staff to take one or more of these assessments. Find a way to share individual results. 

One very low-stress way to assess and share types is with the easy-to-use tool with a funny name: Psycho-Geometrics. The test is $10.95 per person, and it is a very simple and visible way to communicate type. Assessment results assign a shape: Triangle, Box, Circle, Rectangle or Squiggle! According to the Psycho-Geometrics website, each of these five shapes describes a personal style that reflects the way you communicate with others, make career choices, choose friends, deal with stress and make decisions.

Consider adding each staff member’s shape to their name tag, press pass, mailbox, or even staff sweatshirt. The process will be a tool for team-building, and the shapes will provide a quick way to effectively communicate with your staff while remaining completely secret to everyone else. 

Have Empathy. Show Empathy. Live Empathy. 

A friend and colleague recently shared these impactful quotes with me. 

“All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

“I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”

“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘you’re not alone. ‘”

Brené Brown

Once you know your own strengths and weaknesses, and once you know your staffmates’, you can begin to put the Platinum Rule to work.

It may seem difficult to inspire empathy in teenagers. In fact, it’s biologically nearly impossible. Two great articles on this topic are here and here.

In a nutshell, while adolescent brains are still developing, they are still developing the ability to understand the feelings of another. Additionally, peer pressure may cause them to dampen their developing feelings of compassion; it might be cool to joke or tease in ways that hurt. 

It is the leader’s job to shut down that kind of behavior by encouraging self-awareness, and awareness of others and acting on nascent emphatic impulses. 

Call it leadership training, team-building or soft skills education, do whatever it takes to get the whole staff on board with the Platinum Rule.