Using the Platinum Rule to Save Your Neck

By Greg Nathan posted May 19, 2022

There is an old story of a King who heard a rumour that four of his most trusted knights were trying to take advantage of his daughters. Despite the knights' protests, he ordered their public execution and, for dramatic effect, he had his artisans build a special guillotine that would decapitate the four of them simultaneously.

When the contraption was completed a crowd was assembled in the castle courtyard, and the knights were marched onto a stage with their hands tied behind their backs. While the hooded executioner secured their heads into the long wooden stock, the giant blade glistened above them in the sun. 

The king raised his arm and a hush fell over the crowd. As his arm fell the executioner chopped the rope and the blade came hurtling down.

But just before it reached the necks of the four knights it stopped mid-air. The crowd let out a gasp. Frowning, the king turned to his royal wizard who whispered it could be a message from beyond, and that it may be wise to set them free. Deciding he had made his point, the King announced that the knights had been taught their lesson and signalled the executor to release them.

The first knight was a tough warrior. He boldly stood up red-faced and furious. As he pushed his way past the executioner he looked straight into the king’s eyes and growled, “I told you we were innocent. What a waste of my time.” He then strode past the malfunctioning guillotine. 

The second knight had an outgoing, charming disposition. He leapt into the air beaming and yelled to the crowd. “Hey everyone, celebration party at my castle tonight!”

The third knight had a reputation as a warm, sincere protector. He calmly turned to the executioner and, extending his hand, said “I know you were just doing your job, so no hard feelings my friend.”

Meanwhile, the fourth knight, who was analytical and meticulous by nature, had been quietly inspecting the guillotine’s mechanism. “Hold everything" he announced in a triumphant voice. "I have identified the problem.”

Dr Marston and the DISC model

Maybe that fourth knight wasn't as smart as he thought. You may recognise these four temperaments from a popular profiling system known as DISC, a simple model for describing four personality styles - the Dominant Director, Interactive Socialiser, Steady Relator and Cautious Thinker. Sometimes they are described as animals or colours. The DISC model is based on the 1928 book, Emotions of Normal People, by Harvard psychologist, Dr William Marston. Marston also invented the lie detector and created the female comic superhero, Wonder Woman, who had her own lie detector, the magic “Lasso of Truth”.

While there are other more sophisticated models of personality, I have found DISC to be useful for helping people to better understand themselves and others. We use it in our Field Manager Bootcamps to improve communication skills. This can be done by adjusting one’s behavioural style when dealing with people who are different to you.

For instance, if you are a proactive, goal-focused Dominant Director who wants to get things done quickly, you may need to slow down and listen more, especially if you want a Steady Relator to engage with you. These people are temperamentally more methodical and people-focused, and they don’t like to be pushed. Of course, the reverse is true. A Steady Relator may need to speed up and focus more on results if they are to get the attention of a Dominant Director.

Similarly, conflict can occur if an overly optimistic Interactive Socialiser tries to use charm to convince an analytical Cautious Thinker to buy into their latest idea. Rather than the admiration they crave, they are likely to be met with stony-faced scepticism. Cautious Thinkers respond to data and details, not energy and enthusiasm. (You may want to remember this if you ever have the pleasure of presenting to a group of attorneys or financiers).

Introducing The Platinum Rule

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. It's a great philosophy that promotes respect. But when it comes to simple communication, the Platinum Rule, “Do unto others as they would have done unto them”, is more effective. First coined by Dr Tony Alessandra, the Platinum Rule is a useful reminder that everyone doesn’t necessarily see the world the same way as we do. Sometimes to get buy-in to our great ideas we need to step back, take a breath, and communicate differently – perhaps a little faster, or slower. Or maybe we need to be more factual, or more empathetic, depending on the person or the situation.

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