When the golden rule does not apply

I was coaching someone recently about getting along with a coworker and she said, “What I would like if I were in their shoes would be direct communication– just bottom-lining it.” But in fact, that is not what the other person would prefer. His style and preferences are quite different.

Taken in the most literal sense, the golden rule would mean we never adapt ourselves to the preferences of others but project ourselves onto them, assuming they are just like us. It’s like the child who buys his mother a video game for Christmas. It’s like the extrovert who throws a surprise birthday party with 50 people for his introvert friend. It’s like the generous host who prepares a lovely steak for her vegetarian guest.

Applying the golden rule in this way may not be the most loving or kind or appropriate thing to do.

How the deeper principle of the golden rule does apply (for I really do believe in scripture and its applicability) is that what I’d want is for the other person to adjust their style of relating to meet my need. Therefore, I need to adapt my style to meet the needs of others rather than imposing my own style onto them.