Don’t “Treat Others as You Wish to be Treated”

It’s a primary principle, isn’t it? In terms of treating people with dignity and respect?

Matthew 7:12 – “So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you…”

It’s also known as The Golden Rule.

There’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to it and its references across world religions.

The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures.[1] It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although other religions treat it differently. The maxim may appear as a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:

  • Treat others as you would like others to treat you (positive or directive form)
  • Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form)[1]
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form)[1]

So, who am I to come along to say “don’t bother, it is, in fact, a misguided thing to do”?

Well, I know I’m not the first person to say it, but it seems like the message isn’t, really, being received.

The issue is that to “treat others as you wish to be treated” has at its core a shaky presumption: that I wish to be treated in the same way as you wish to be treated.

How do you know how I wish to be treated? Are my values the same as yours? Are you not, in fact, assuming, and imposing your ideas upon me, if you treat me the way you wish to be treated?

I understand, at its core, the idea is that to deal with others with humanity, dignity and respect, but if you don’t know what dignity and respect are for me, aren’t you in danger of not actually following the ideal behind The Golden Rule?

And so, we need a revision.

We ought to treat others as they wish to be treated.

We need to understand what others consider to be dignity and respect, and show that to them.

We must treat others as they would wish to be treated, because to do so through our own lens is to not take into account what they consider to be respect, dignity and humanity, it would be our own view of it. Understanding someone else’s values is tough, but ultimately totally worthwhile.

So how do we understand someone else’s values?

The good news is, there’s a way. This is where we need CQ™: Cultural Intelligence.

CQ™ is the ability to relate and work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. Based on more than twenty years of research across over 100 countries, we know that there are four capabilities that need to be developed in order to relate and work effectively with people from different backgrounds.

Cultural Intelligence begins with CQ Drive—the curiosity and motivation needed to work well with others. Next is CQ Knowledge—understanding the kinds of differences that describe one group versus the next, without resorting to stereotyping specific cultures. Third is CQ Strategy—learning how to plan effectively in light of cultural differences. And finally, is CQ Action—being able to adapt behaviour when the situation requires it.[2]

The even better news is, CQ is measurable, with an assessment.

Incorporated into this is the concept of 10 Cultural Value preferences, which describe basic tendencies in the way that people prefer to work and live.

By understanding your own preferences in this area and comparing them with typical norms for other groups you will develop insights that can help you understand other people’s actions and improve your interpersonal effectiveness.[2]

The best news is, CQ is an improvable skill.

By taking these steps to understand yourself and then the preferences of others, and then using CQ as a framework of behaviour to act differently, and continually learn, you can treat others as they wish to be treated and truly fulfil the sentiment of The Golden Rule.

1.      Antony Flew, ed. (1979). “golden rule”. A Dictionary of Philosophy. London: Pan Books in association with The MacMillan Press. p. 134.

2.      Cultural Intelligence Center Culturalq.com