The Trouble With The Golden Rule | Brendan Schulz | TEDxYorkU

hi I'm Brendan when I was five my

kindergarten teacher Miss Hebert taught

me and the rest of the class the Golden

Rule do unto others as you would have

them do unto you the rules stuck with me

clearly I can still remember it being

taught it when I was five years old and

I'd like to think that I applied it as

best as I could

throughout my childhood into adolescence

and even into adulthood and it turns out

miss Hebert wasn't the only one teaching

this rule in fact variations of the rule

exist across many cultures and many

faith systems it shows up in Hinduism

Buddhism Christianity Judaism Islam and

the list goes on now I want to do a

little experiment so you got to bear

with me and I promise I'll circle back

around to the golden rule and for my

experiment I actually need a volunteer

from the audience you're just going to

have to come up on stage it'll take a

minute it'll be super easy

everybody's looking down yeah will you

be my volunteer awesome so just come up

around up the stairs over there all

right and as I say it's going to be real

easy I just need you to come up to me

and introduce yourself to me as though

we're meeting for the first time which

in fact we are ha true true nice to meet

you dream on Brendon now drew tell me

how does it feel if we start talking

like this good ok how are you feeling ok

on the edge of it on the edge a little

bit ok because we're standing too close

right and too close generally means

either something aggressive or intimate

both of which are inappropriate for our

first meeting like this ok so let me

just back up a little ok I'm going to

back up a little bit

how does it feel if we're having a

conversation right about here ok ok so

it's a little distance little distant

that maybe you smell a little a little

unfocused maybe I'm coming across even a

little aloof ok so stay where you are

still I need you to help me up so I'm

going to start moving forward and you

let me know when I'm in the right spot

in front of drew how's this keep going

now how about here little more how about

here still more how about this Oh a lot

of people say yes what about this no

somebody's trying to set you up and say

keep got okay so right this is it right

here it's good free good by you as well

okay thank you very much let's give drew

a hand for helping me out okay so let me

ask you this how many of you when you

were a kid had a parent maybe a teacher

they sat you down and they said this is

how far you should stand from another


I'm guessing none of us none of us were

overtly taught this and yet all of us

knew the difference between hilariously

embarrassingly too close and comfortably

just right

now we must have learnt it we learned it

through observation through experience

trial and error but it wasn't conscious

so this sense of space that we have is

one example of our unconscious

competence we don't think about it and

and we're good at it in fact we're

really good at it our sense of space is

really quite nuanced it changes ever so

slightly depending on whether you're

speaking with a stranger a friend a

family member if it's a social setting a

professional setting if it's a crowded

room if it's not a crowded room so it

really makes up as I say one example of

our norms the things that we call normal

and don't really think much about but

what happens what happens when our norms

differ across cultures and facets of

diversity because they do we know that

from different cultures their sense of

space is somewhat different and so I

could be standing speaking with somebody

who's too close and I might just think

you know what I'm just going to take a

little step back to get it just right

again and that person might be thinking

well why is he stepping back I'm kind of

not focused now he's a little bit aloof

I'll just take a little step forward and

we could end up doing this dance all the

way around the room trying to make it

just right trying to do unto the other

person as we'd like them to do too

so this brings us back around to the

golden rule the trouble with the golden

rule is it's ethnocentric by nature it

assumes that what's good for me is good

for you and it ignores all our

individual differences in norms so we

don't have to cross countries to realize

this I can give you an example I'm a big

extrovert and so if I were at a party

and I saw two people standing off on the

side having a conversation together my

inclination would be to bring them and

draw them into the large group because

if I was at a party and I was standing

off on the side that's what I would want

but those two people maybe they're

introverts might be having the best part

of their night right there and I would

be ruining it by trying to do to them

what I would want done to me so the

Golden Rule focuses a lot on sameness on

equality and usually we think of

equality is a good thing I would put

forward that we should be focusing more

heavily on equity or fairness take a

look at this picture you may have seen

this one before the kids on the Left are

being treated with sameness with

equality the kids on the right are not

being treated the same at all they're

being treated equitably they're being

treated with fairness each one is having

their unique needs met such that they

can meet the goal and that is to see the

game so there's a difference between

sameness and fairness and with that I

want to recommend an upgrade to the rule

and that is the Platinum rule the

Platinum rule states do unto others as

you would have as sorry do unto others

as they would have you do unto them the

key here is that we're finally focusing

on the receiver the them and the they

okay we're finally paying attention to

the person whose needs were trying to

meet I think it's a good rule I think

it's a great rule actually but notice

that it comes at a price the Platinum

rule is more of an investment than the

golden rule it requires that you may

build a relationship with the person at

the very least you have to ask them what

their needs are and so it takes more

time and sometimes the Platinum rule

just isn't realistic sometimes you have

to make assumptions you have to make

generalizations sometimes you're

communicating to a large population such

that having a one-on-one conversation to

uncover unique needs just isn't

realistic still some of you might be

thinking you know what I'm going to do

the Platinum rule because it's a good

thing or the right thing to do well

that's Noble

my experience though is that the things

that we do because they're a good thing

or the right thing are some of the first

things that fall off the table when

there's pressures on time on resources

and when we have competing priorities so

my recommendation is to consciously

intentionally invest in the Platinum

rule to really weigh it out look at okay

these are this is the time it's going to

take me this is the effort it's going to

take to meet these needs and is that

outweighed by the value that comes of it

I believe that it will be if we take

students for example we know from Alpha

lazio's research that if we invest in

and focus on the needs of students needs

around a sense of connection with the

institution sense of resourcefulness for

the campus a sense of purpose for

education we know that students are more

likely to persist and to succeed imagine

even further if as students you have the

opportunity to create your own

definition of success and it's no

different with employees we know again

from research employees if employers

invest in creating a space an

environment a culture such that

employees are able to bring their full

unique selves to the workplace they're

more likely to be engaged and we know

that employee engagement correlates

strongly with productivity innovation

etc and I'd speculate that is citizens

if we were able to have our needs met

such that we could bring our best selves

forward that we'll be able to contribute

most greatly to our cities and to our

communities and I wonder when we think

across countries and across cultures

when we think across conflicts if we

were to invest heavily into

understanding our neighbors needs and

not just having our needs understood I

wonder what we could achieve I hope

we'll find out thank you