I’m sure that most of you will be familiar with what is often called The Golden Rule, do to others what you would have them do to you. Such a simple, seemingly obvious statement, and yet so very hard to put into practise. We want others to treat us with compassion and kindness and understanding, but we find ourselves being judgmental and gossipy. We want people to be patient and peaceable and polite, but we react to situations with irritation and flare up and retaliate in kind when provoked.
This might seem like a strange topic for what is essentially a business blog, but I think it has a huge bearing on your success in business. I find it easier to apply when it comes to my customers than I do in every day life, for some reason, and I think that it has contributed to a really good relationship with my customers. I try to treat them with courtesy, no matter what, to be generous, to be conscientious, all qualities that I hope to see in other people’s treatment of me. And it works. I’m occasionally reminded of the flip side of this rule when I hear about poor business practises or ill manners of a business person (thankfully rare, but it does happen). It surprises me that they don’t realise that their behaviour will return to them in the end. We all learn in the end, some of us the hard way.
But coming back to me, because this isn’t meant to be a diatribe against others, but rather some musings I’ve been having recently about my own personality. Why is it so hard to implement this rule when it comes to personal relationships? At least, to implement it consistently? I think what it comes down to is this: we all think we are right. We all have our own version of reality, a set of rules for life, and a way of looking at the world that is singularly ours, something we’ve developed over time. And because we’ve created that reality ourselves, we think it is accurate, that our way of looking at things and doing things is the only right, correct way. That everyone else has got it slightly wrong. This is the way our brain works, instinctively.
But the problem is, this way of thinking makes humility very difficult. And it takes humility to treat others how you want them to treat you, when they are doing anything but. We want everyone to acknowledge that we are right, and so we fight and push to try to make them concede. By reacting to any negative behaviour with humility and kindness and compassion, we give up our right to be right. We say, “It doesn’t matter to me who is right or wrong here, what matters is being kind and loving and generous in spirit.” Really, we are going one step further, and showing that there is no definitive right or wrong to the situation, that there doesnt have to be a winner and a loser, that everyone has their own window of perception onto the world, and that their perception is just that, a perception, not a set in stone reality. We give up the power struggle in favour of living a gentler life, of trying to do good to others without the need for acknowledgement that our way is the best way.
It’s not surprising that it’s difficult, really, when that goes directly against the way that many in society live their lives. And that goes against our baser instincts and impulses. I’ll freely admit that it’s a huge struggle for me, and most of the time I find myself reacting to things and only remembering after the fact that there’s a better way of doing things. Just gotta keep on trying, keep on trying……