Monday, April 03, 2017


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You remember the GOLDEN RULE right?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Basically, treat people the way you want to be treated.
Seems like good advice-but is it?
I'm not saying it's not useful.
I'm saying that it's not the whole story.
Or maybe I'm saying that it's Step 1 in learning to love your neighbor.
It's a place to start...
It's how we teach empathy to those insane little narcissists
also known as toddlers.

Now Timmy...would you like it if Johnny did that to you?
How would you feel if he pushed you down and took your toy?
Terrible right?
Now say sorry and give it back.

We've all had this lesson.
Most of us over the age of ten have also given this lesson.
It is a lesson that we all need.

I'm just trying to say...maybe...
just maybe.... 
it's not the final word on how to treat others.

Problem is...the Golden Rule assumes that everyone else is just like you.

That what feels good to you will also feel good to everyone else.

Unfinished Art by me

Any basic survey on any topic
will show you the fallacy in that assumption.
We are all special and unique.
We have different preferences and experiences.
We cannot know what someone else wants...
and it is erroneous to believe that what I want is what you want.
And yet...we're taught from a young age
that when faced with the 'other'
we are supposed to do unto them
what we want done to us.

For many of us...this can be somewhat triggering.
Let's move onto something that should be less triggering....
let's talk about talking.

I've come to understand that I approach almost everything
 from the viewpoint of 
either a writer or a scientist.
I'm a science writer!
errr...actually, I'm definitely not that.
But I am a writer who was trained in scientific approaches.
I am often
trying to fit most communication into a story arc.
Main characters, conflict, resolution.
Hypothesis, data, conclusion.

If it's not clear to me at the outset of the communication
what the conflict or hypothesis is....then my brain
will spend a lot of energy trying to figure out
the problem so that it can start structuring
the resolution or achieving the conclusion.
I will start trying to gather 
This usually involves me asking questions
determining all the ins and outs-
-the knowns-
getting them out and on the table.
I like to dump all the data out
and categorize everything
(even things that defy categorization).
Swim around in it.
Question and analyze.
So that I can fit it into my preferred framework
which most often results in 

I'm exaggerating a little bit
but not much
and only to show how much I really really like this structure.
My point is....
this brings ME comfort.
This method has been successful for ME.
It is a positive pattern of resolution for ME.
When I can put something into a story arc
or science project it to conclusion
then I will have happy thoughts.
Like eating chocolate or hearing Hallelujahs sung in three part harmony.

Find this delight at Chet Miller

And here is where the Golden Rule lets me down.

Just because something is my comfort zone should not imply that it is comfortable for anyone else.

What is right for me is not necessarily right for anyone else.

There is in fact...
no absolute correlation between what works for me
and what might work for someone else.

Although I like to attack problems this way
you might prefer other solutions.
Or no solution.
Or to just eat cheesecake.
Surrounded by 3 of your best friends.

The Golden Rule tells me that you will like it.
So if I'm not aware of my bias
 I am likely to beat you over the head my preferred communication style.
I might have trouble understanding
why this is NOT comforting for you because it's so delightful for me.

So what is a good friend to do?

You should treat others the way they want to be treated.

And keep your own preferences out of it.

Apparently the idea that you should 
treat others the way they want to be treated
is called the Platinum Rule.
I thought I came to this conclusion (including the name) uniquely and on my own.
I used the google looking for an image idea and...
apparently this has been around for a while.
These guys even wrote a book about it.
I should use the google more often.
And be less arrogant and smug about my intelligence.

All I can say is....I'm super glad I made it to this next rule so I can travel another road
instead of the one that I've been on for a while now. 
Maybe there's another rule and I'll make it there eventually too.

You know you're singing it now.... did I figure out that my way is not the only way?
Funny you should ask....I can mostly thank this one special friend.
I call this friend Rose 
(even though he is male, believe me, the nickname works).

Because of my love and admiration for Rose 
I have been able to learn something entirely new and different.

Namely....that my way is not the only way.

Or even the right way.

We have decades of friendship and inter-connectedness.
There is no disputing that we love, admire and respect each other.
And yet.....
we are so different when it comes to
 communication style that we might be different species.
He very often leads me down a long winding road when he talks to me.

St. Olaf stories seem simplistic compared to some of our conversations.

Here's an example of an interchange I might have with Rose:

Rose:  What did you eat for lunch?
Me:  I ate nachos with extra guacamole and spicy salsa at that little place I love.  
What did you eat?

Rose:   I was thinking about going to eat BBQ but then my other friend wanted to go.
Do you know my friend Cal?  
Well, Cal wanted to go to...he told me last week that he'd might be
free so I texted him and he was free!
As we were walking out the door though, we ran into Ricky and Bobby.
You remember Ricky and Bobby right?
I met them a while back at that conference remember?
I told you about them right?

Ricky is tall and has 3 kids and works in IT.
Bobby is blond and he goes fishing a lot on his boat.
Anyway, it turns out that Ricky knows Bobby and they were doing some 
work in the building beside ours today.
Ricky has a new car, an SUV that's green with a third row.
He wanted to drive so we all piled into his car.
Not the new one, he actually drove his wife's car today.
He just wanted to drive because he gets 
car sick if he doesn't so we said ok.
He really likes jazz and we started talking about concerts and music we like.
Turns out Cal just went to a concert last week in Chapel Hill by 
that band that you remember the one I'm talking about?
I can't remember that band's name but I think it started with a P.
No...maybe a number?
Anyway...we were laughing and having a great time.
When we got to the restaurant, the restaurant  was packed.
We ordered our food but there was no where to sit.
We were going to have to split up until we realized 
there was another group there that we all knew too!
I ate at a table with Ricky
Cal and Bobby sat with the other group.
Lunch was pretty awesome.

there will be a long pause here.....

Me: So what did you eat for lunch?
Rose:   Oh, I had chicken fried rice.  Didn't I say that already?

Sweet Jesus.This kind of communication is very very challenging for me.

There is no way to speed this story up
or get to the point
without derailing the whole story
and leaving poor Rose feeling frustrated and unappreciated.
He is working so hard to paint the scene for me
and include me in his experience.
This is exactly how he has been successful in the past.
This...this is his comfort zone.
This feels right and good to him.
This is what he would want me to do for him.

Now...don't get me wrong.
All this information is useful.
It just doesn't answer the question that was asked.
It does not solve the problem!
So...I have spent several minutes
and lots of energy trying to figure out where this winding path is going.
And listening for the answer to my question
instead of enjoying the ride
that gives me insight into a special time 
that my friend had.

As an experiment
I've recently committed to Rose and myself
that I will just hear him out.
When he gets going
unless there is an emergency situation
I will let him go.
Until he is done.
I will not rush him or prod him.
I will not ask him 5,987 questions for clarity.

Why is the simple always SO HARD?

I have done this effectively 3 times to date.
I have persevered.
I have breathed deeply.
I have stopped the words from coming out of my mouth.
 I have just observed.
I have engaged the platinum rule
and tried to do unto him as he would like done unto him.
I have treated him the way he would treat him.

I listened.
I heard him out.
I did not pepper him with questions
or throw off the rhythm of his telling
by inserting my solutions to perceived problems.

And you know what?
It is kind of beautiful.
I might never get a direct answer to what he ate for lunch.
But I will get the color and view into his heart and mind.
Which is the answer to most questions anyway.


Enlightened Soul said...

I like that these get emailed to me now. Much easier and more efficient!

Excellent post about us not all being alike and not all needing the same things. Probably one of the most beneficial things I learned from therapy is that I can't expect people to be like me, behave like me, and want what I want out of life. Ah, now I have perspective. Now I have understanding. Now I can set my own expectations for others better. You gotta live it to learn it sista.

Nice job!

Unknown said...

Dear - You've helped me tremendously today. Reading your Rose story, it dawned on me that I married a 'Rose'. When she answers a question by going off on tangents and telling me how I know someone or when/where I would have met them, I'm FOREVER trying to get her to get ON WITH IT. I'm not going to remember that person (shocking, huh?) no matter how much context you give me so I just cut it off the detail she's trying to provide. Frankly, it's not gold or platinum, it's just rude and I ought to be better than that.

Thank you friend. You're a rock star.


Sucar said...

@Enlightened Soul....the emailing thing is definitely easier. Especially since this blogger doesn't have a regular writing rhythm yet. are the only person who calls me dear and so I knew immediately whose voice would follow. Rose is by far my favorite Golden Girls character...probably b/c I'm so much more like Dorothy. I need that sweetness to temper my acid.

xo to both of you. Thanks for reading my nattering.