Part of the magic of my “It’s in the SAUCE®” personality assessment tool is that it provides data on how to communicate effectively with others, especially with those who have a different dominant communication style. I began a discussion of personality differences in last week’s blog post, and promised to continue the discussion this week. Personality differences are one variable involved in how we communicate. How we communicate has a lot to do with how well we get along with others, or fail to. Personality differences and communication are so important that I will devote several posts to this subject.
Let’s begin this week’s discussion with the Golden Rule, recognizing when it can be helpful, and when to consider other principles. In its purest form the Golden Rule, that is, to treat others as you would like them to treat you, is positive and can provide a roadmap for communication and behavior. If the communication is rooted in a respect for others, kindness, and other positive behaviors, the application of the Golden Rule isn’t necessarily problematic. However, sometimes even when those ideals are present, the application of the Golden Rule does not result in the best communication for the recipient.
Take, for example, the common response of Millenials when someone says, “Thank you.” I often hear them reply, “No problem!” If you are a Boomer, perhaps you (like I) bristle. To many Boomers, the proper response to “thank you” is “you’re welcome”, not “no problem”. While I believe that each generation replying to “thank you” is usually intending to be respectful and kind, others may not hear the words used as representative of such.
Considering the significant diversity in our society, especially diversity of ethnicity and religion, the application of the Golden Rule may not always result in the most effective communication. Although the Golden Rule is a commonly accepted philosophy in the U.S., we need to be more mindful of how we apply it, and at least consider if it works as well in a very diverse culture as does the Platinum Rule.
Dr. Tony Alessandra’s Platinum Rule, which is to “treat others the way they want to be treated,” may provide a more effective standard for communicating across varying cultures and generations. A communication example can best differentiate the Platinum Rule from the Golden Rule. Most people communicate from one of two basic communication styles: communicating in a direct manner or communicating in an indirect manner. The differences in these styles are significant. The person who communicates in a direct manner gets to his point quickly, uses “bottom line” talk, and definitive words. Conversely, the person who communicates in an indirect manner uses verbal qualifiers that soften the message, for example, words such as “sometimes” or phrases such as “it seems that” or “in my opinion”. Neither style is bad nor good; both styles can be effective when used appropriately. If a direct communicator communicates from her natural style with a person who is naturally an indirect communicator, misunderstanding can occur. The same is true when an indirect communicator communicates from his natural style with a direct communicator.
The context of the discussion, not just the communication preference or style of the other person, should guide whether the communicator uses direct or indirect language. A workplace example related to tardiness illustrates this principle. An excellent employee begins to exhibit tardiness in arriving to work. In the first conversation with the employee, the manager could say, “John, on two of the last fifteen work days, you have been ten minutes late to work,” which is direct and true. Or, the manager could say, “John, it seems that there has been some change in your normal pattern of being at work on time,” which is also true, but is a “softened” message. If this is the first time that the manager notices a problem behavior in an excellent employee, perhaps the indirect approach is best, regardless of the employee’s dominant communication style. On the other hand, if this encounter needs to be the first step in the disciplinary procedure, direct communication is probably best, regardless of the dominant communication style of the employee. This example illustrates the importance of the context in selecting direct or indirect language.
Regardless of their own more dominant communication style, the most effective communicators communicate with others based upon the other person’s most dominant style. This is an example of the Platinum Rule. They also consider the context when making this decision.
In a recent visit to an Enterprise Car Rental location, I noticed these works printed on the wall: “We simply treat our customers the way they should be treated.” This doesn’t necessarily have to pertain to just customers. What about treating everyone the way they should be treated? Do you think this idea is reflective of The Golden Rule, The Platinum Rule, or both? Is it possible that the phrase is reflective of an even higher level of behavior than either the Golden Rule or Platinum Rule? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.