Everybody’s heard of “The Golden Rule:”
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
It is a concept that has existed forever, but I read somewhere that it was Jesus who turned it on this positive angle. Everybody else– Confucius, the Greek philosophers– couched it in opposite terms:
Don’t treat anyone the way you don’t want to be treated.
It was “the law of reciprocity” and contained a rude (underdeveloped) sort of empathy. Sort of like another admonition I read on a twitter profile:
Be gentle with others. Everyone is fighting a secret battle.
All of these build on the idea that we know our own needs and that there is a commonality to our race (we’re all human) that allows us to recognize (from our own experience) what others would value and/or fear.
The frustrating thing about conclusions is that they are fully dependent on the assumptions that lead to them.
Even the Golden Rule.
I have been told more than once that I’m not like most people, and Jay had that great line last week, “You are a square in a world of circles. You come at things from such a *completely* different angle nobody else sees.”
The man wasn’t being critical or complementary. I think bewildered is the best word. It’s nice not to be the only confused one. And nice to be accepted, even “off center.”
So when I assume that others are like me, that they value and desire the same things– I can get in trouble.
For one thing, other people “golden-ruling” me really are trying hard, and I shouldn’t get offended when it doesn’t fit, and what I give other people (because it’s what I would have wanted) can land completely wrong.
So I think the level-to-aspire-to is The Platinum Rule:
Treat others the way they want to be treated.
By necessity this requires knowing the other person well enough to make a reasonable guess, but it also requires the presence of mind to apply what you know.
Many people I know (and I include myself in this category) are just plain-nice people. They’re not in the habit of doing unkind things, and I can’t think of situations where they would be deliberately hurtful to anyone.
But some of these people have hurt me.
And I have hurt some of them.
Here’s one specific example, going both ways– it relates (as I see it) to the way we process information differently.
When I take in information, I connect it to something; rarely on-purpose, it’s just one of the ways my brain works.
This (quick connections) is what I attribute my better-than-average memory to.
As a result (this is my current theory) when I give out information it is stuck to a bunch of other items and data points; I usually present an entire package of information, complete with possibilities of application.
Maybe it’s my version of a maternal nature: I see a little orphan data point and have to tuck it into a home of its own.
Therefore I have a tendency to give people more information than they’re interested in, and hold back under-formed ideas until they have an application, or at least context.
It just aches to send a little orphan into the world alone…
So I sometimes hurt other people by saying something they’re not ready to hear (especially since it sounds like my mind’s made up already.)
NB: Another way I’m different from many people is that I continually take in new data points, so I can accept a good argument/evidence. But until then, yeah, I’m gonna look like my mind’s made up, because I’ve only got the data I have.
And I find Nice People can (have) hurt me longer than they needed to because I didn’t have the idea even of saying, “Please stop, you’re hurting me.”
All I had was the emotion. I didn’t have the interpretation, or any suggestion about what the person should do differently. It wasn’t a whole, coherent package I could hand the clueless person across from me. So didn’t know how to respond.
You see, I’ve been manipulated by people critiquing my approach (to life and interaction) without the substance of why or what I could do differently. With the perspective of hindsight I can see how they used lack of specifics to control me better than if they’d told me specifically what to change.
If I irritate anyone by my essence (this is so possible), my Faerie compliance with their specific complaint is unlikely to be enough to placate them.
So one of the things I’m learning to do is start with smaller bits.
That is (going back to the Golden Rule), if I was hurting somebody without knowing it, I’d reallyreally want them to say something, even if it was just Ouch!
Letting a data point loose (“That’s a sensitive place you’re poking with that comment!”) isn’t to give them more work, it’s to keep myself safe.
And what about getting it wrong with others? Well, I’m still working on the “awareness” part of that equation. For now, when I remember, I’m trying to follow Mignon McLaughin’s suggestion:
“Don’t be yourself. Be someone a little nicer.”