Most of us grew up with the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you). The “Platinum Rule” is a common business buzzword. The Platinum Rule states that instead of treating people the way you want to be treated, you should invest time in discovering how they want to be treated. The concept has obvious implications for sales and HR, but it also has communications implications.
The Platinum Rule and Different Communication Styles
People have a variety of communication styles. For example, some people are less interested in what you’re saying and more interested in the relationship they are building with you. Some people want to debate things in the moment. Other people need time to think about what you’ve said and then come back to you with questions. Some people learn better when they see things written down, and others prefer face-to-face conversation.
If you are following the platinum rule, you will take time to learn how best to communicate with others in your organization. You can do this by being observant and asking questions. There are also a variety of assessments that can help you better understand each other’s communication styles.
If you routinely have missed or dysfunctional communications with someone, it may be worth it to have a conversation explicitly about their communication needs.
The Platinum Rule and Different Communication Platforms
Emails, texts, phone calls, intranet, Slack … there are multiple ways to communicate with employees and co-workers. Sometimes communication problems don’t come from communication styles. They come from the tools we use to communicate. Not everyone is equally comfortable on every platform. Although it is reasonable for an organization to set communication norms, you must ask yourself these questions:
Does everyone have equal access to computer-based communications?
If some employees work at desks and others are “in the field,” you may need to have different ways of communicating with different people. The platinum rule means acknowledging not just preferences but also differences in job functions.
Are you asking people to use personal devices for work communication?
Just because people are comfortable texting doesn’t mean they want to use their personal phones to text about work.
Are you providing appropriate training on communications platforms?
You can’t expect employees to be comfortable communicating on a newer platform like Slack if you haven’t offered them training.
Are your communications standards clearly communicated?
Norms around communications tend to develop slowly over time. So, we often forget to make our expectations implicit, especially for new employees. The platinum rule means recognizing that people come from various backgrounds, and what’s apparent to one person isn’t to someone else.
Are your communications standards based on one person’s preferences?
Often, things like Text vs. Email or Email vs. Slack are set up based on the preference of the person in charge. While someone has to make the decisions, if you’re truly following the platinum rule, you need to pay attention to what everyone needs.
The Role of Empathy
The most important quality needed to follow the Platinum Rule is empathy. Having a work culture of empathy allows you to listen and react to the needs of your employees. Once you truly care about what your employees need, you’ll find it easier to know how to communicate with them.