The Platinum Rule - A Golden Rule Upgrade

The Platinum Rule - A Golden Rule Upgrade

Everyone knows the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would like done unto yourself." It sounds good and it is a nice starting point for an ethical approach. So nice, you'd think it was one of the Ten Commandments. It's not but the idea is found almost universally in religions and philosophies worldwide.

The Golden Rule, however, has a problem. What if what you are doing to someone isn't what they want done? You'd like it done to you but they don't. Let me take a simple example from my life that you might be able to relate to.

I like rock 'n roll. I like to play it loud and I like to have it playing while I work. As I write this, Steely Dan is jamming on Do It Again..."You go back, Jack, do it again." Anyhow, back, Jack, to my point. I work well to music and if I were to simply follow the Golden Rule I'd have music playing while I work and I'd play it for my co-workers. In my personal opinion, having good rock 'n roll playing is a plus for a work environment.

Unfortunately, what I like isn't what everyone likes. Some people I have worked with simply can't have music playing. It is too distracting for them. Others don't particularly like rock 'n roll, or perhaps not my particular flavor of rock. Short of headphones, what's a guy to do?

I can't get no respect. - Rodney Dangerfield

The Platinum Rule To The Rescue

The Platinum Rule

Do unto everyone as they would like done unto them.

When I'm working with people I have to take their needs into consideration. I treat them as they would like to be treated, not as I would like to be treated. I follow the Platinum Rule.

The Platinum Rule forces us to treat others with respect. The same sort of respect for another we apply when we think about what kind of birthday present to get someone or when we change the music in the car when our parents get in. It is simply consideration of the other. A small but meaningful gift. An act of kindness.

Pushing Your Buttons

So far, my examples seem like common courtesy. In essence, they are, though how common seems to vary. Let's look at a more challenging example, the dreaded phone call to customer 'service.'

I think we've all had the experience of calling a company, pushing buttons in some bizarre guessing game about which of their departments handles our specific need, then waiting on hold for a long time only to be not helped by the person on the phone. Maybe we get transferred six times, maybe we get disconnected. At some point, we're frustrated.

Clearly these people have no idea what they are doing. Our choices are frustration, anger, acceptance, or, if we are realistic, all three. Yes, we're angry and frustrated. We know, however, we have to deal with this incompetence, so we accept it, at least at some level. What can we do? Maybe we raise our voice, express our anger and frustration. Maybe we hang up and just don't get what we need done.

Applying the Platinum Rule in this situation is much harder, I think you'll agree. What does the person on the other end of the phone want? "They want to waste my time and make me angry." You think. Really? Is that the job they applied for? Most likely, they saw an ad for a Customer Service Representative and found the idea of helping people desirable. Once employed they encountered rules, limitations, poor training, inflexible technology, security considerations, legal limitations, and the vast variety of problems presented overwhelming. They want to help, they just don't know how. If you think you are frustrated, imagine how they feel every time they can't do their job well. They know you're frustrated and dissatisfied. Now they are, too.

If you use the Platinum Rule in this situation, put yourself into their position and see they are trying to help you (even if they are doing so poorly), life improves. You treat them more kindly. Since you know they want to help, you simply ask for their help. When it isn't satisfactory, you needn't yell. If you've treated them as they want to be treated, they are much more likely to try further to help when they just can't do any more themselves. Then you can ask for them to get a supervisor to help or to find the right person to help you while you stay on hold. Maybe they can even call you back - I've had it happen more than once.

By doing what they need, not what you need, you give them the respect they deserve, respect they deserve just for being human, no matter how limited their competence in this situation. Respect you want to receive in return. Respect you likely will get in return, too. Who knows? They might go the extra mile, just for a nice person, like you.

Platinum Is Harder Than Gold

When you think about the Platinum Rule, you quickly realize that it's much harder to apply than the Golden Rule. You have to take the time to step outside yourself and know the other but how do you know what someone else wants? The answer is that you don't but that shouldn't stop you from trying. Take a moment and think about their needs.

What is your relationship to this person? Are they expecting a level of power? If so, give them that without giving away your own expectations. Are they providing a service? See it from their point of view. Are they in a hurry with a long line ahead? Let them step in front of you.

Are you still unsure of their needs? Ask them, if it's appropriate. Ultimately, just use your best judgment. Perfection is not the goal, consideration is. You might be surprised how right you sometimes are.

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The Silver Rule is the inverse of the Golden Rule: "Do not do unto others as they would not want done unto themselves." One nice part about following the Platinum Rule is that there are less rules to remember. If, by following the Platinum Rule, you are doing what someone else wants then, by definition, you can't be doing what they don't want. Golden Rule + Silver Rule = Platinum Rule.

Change Yourself

Instead of trying to mold the whole world into what you want, when you apply the Platinum Rule you respect everyone for what they want. This has side benefits for you, too. Not only are people more likely to treat you the same way you treated them but, when you start thinking about others needs, you also become clearer about your own needs.

By knowing your needs you can express them more clearly to others and, thereby, give them an opportunity to apply the Platinum Rule to your needs. There's nothing wrong with letting your co-workers know that you like to listen to Steely Dan while working. They'll take the hint that you're not listening out of respect for their needs. Who knows? Maybe their just crank up Steely Dan for you one afternoon.


The Platinum Rule says to do unto anyone. Anyone includes yourself. Are you treating yourself with the respect you deserve? Are you doing to yourself what you would like done to you by others or do you put yourself last? We're so accustomed to assuming that we are acting in our own best interest that we take it for granted. I'm not so sure we always do. Think of yourself and treat yourself right. You are one of the anyone, too.

Change The World

Knowing, or at least considering, another persons' wants and needs allows you to contrast those needs and wants against your own. When you do this for a while, you start to see yourself as different, yet the same, as everyone else. Our common humanity shines from behind the shade of self. You find that most people are kindhearted and good. Selflessness and compassion for others is the natural outcome. In short, you make the world a better place for you and everyone you touch, directly and indirectly.

If you want the world to be a better place, start by applying the Platinum Rule.

A Debt Of Gratitude

I have to thank my wise friend Jay Rabin for introducing me to the Platinum Rule. It has become #1 on my list of Rules To Live By and has improved my life by changing compassion from a separate, independently considered act to a core act integral to my behavior.

One rule to rule them all.

Thanks Jay.

Do unto anyone as they would like done unto them.

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How has the Platinum Rule has improved your life and the lives of others?

Vic Steblin
Vic Steblin

The Platinum Rule is “Do unto others as they would like done unto them”.

The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would like done unto yourself.”

The Silver Rule is “Do not do unto others as they would not want done unto themselves.”

The Platinum Rule seems to be combining the Golden and Silver rules.

When applied to wood smoke what happens if I want clean air and if you want smoky air? The Platinum Rule seems to say that I should also make smoke if my neighbor burns wood? This logic is strange enough that the Platinum Rule becomes a silly play on words. Philosophy is a “silly play on words” to many reasonable hard core scientists.

Kenneth Benjamin
Kenneth Benjamin moderator

@Vic Steblin First, at some level you have a point. None of these rules is going to pass a strict logical challenge. 

Secondly, but then again, they are intended as guides for human behavior. Nothing much logical about that, is there?

And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the planet, Vic.

(Paraphrased from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)

Vic Steblin
Vic Steblin

I once read through the Cambridge dictionary of philosophy after reading Feynman's comment that philosophy was just "wishful thinking" which at that time I agreed with. Since then, watching the neuroplasticians at work with phantom limbs, have come to realize that we make up most of this stuff and then just believe it because our neurons feel better about it.


This what I have been saying and do nas best I can for as long as I can remember. I admit I am a huge George Harrison listner. Maybe I listen to his music because that was the core of his spritually and it just makes sense to me. I just believe that liveing that was makes sense. It is just the righ way to be. It's the way we are ment to live. I heard a saying that has stuck with me and makes totla sense.If you hold on to what you have so tightly and only use one to give away then you will lose in the long run because you have to let go to gain.

Jim Callahan
Jim Callahan

Many people, and Westerners are famous for this, think they are always justified to speak their mind. They think they have every right and it is a matter of freedom that they are even proud of. To express your feelings or opinions is good, or so they think.

There is another view that maintains our words and actions should be tailored to the other person or people. Firstly, what do you hope to accomplish by communicating? What will be the effect of your communication or behavior on the other person? Does the other person want to hear this, as the Platinum Rule demands?

Are there exceptions to the Platinum Rule? Not many, I'd say, between adults. With kids you got to tell them what you think they need to know, like it or not.


  1. [...] to be the person you hate most and to see life from their perspective. If nothing else, follow the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would like done unto themselves.Believe, as Clint Eastwood recently [...]

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