Thursday 24 May 2012

The Golden Rule

I heard something years ago which stuck with me.  The infamous Golden Rule "Do under others as you would have them do unto you" is backwards.

Rather than doing things for other people that you would like them to do for you, you should do things for other people that they would like you to do.

There's a lot of misunderstandings which happen because people aren't paying attention to the reactions of other people.  Someone who likes to talk and share after a difficult situation tries to push their preferences on someone who would prefer to have quiet time to sort through their own thoughts.  The quiet person begins to get flustered and irritated and eventually, if the talking person continues to push, you end up with a fight.  Or vice versa, the quiet person walks away, leaving the talking person alone and the talking person feels abandoned.

Our emotions have been compared to a beetle in a box.  We all have a box and inside we all have what we call a "beetle" but we can't see into anyone else's box.  Our beetles could all be very different but we assume they're all the same. 

It's difficult to throw away preconceptions about what works.  There's a built-in drive to treat people fairly, which we usually equate with treating them the same.  But it's not fair to treat people all the same.

Alex likes to have a quiet time to himself at the end of the day.  Most of his day is full of people pushing his comfort zone and telling him what to do.  I would like to spend time cuddling with him and playing with him, but he wants to have some time totally free of social demands.  I have to respect that.  I can't assume he reacts and thinks the same way I do.  Another child might feel alone and neglected but Alex needs to have his quiet space.  He sees social interaction as stress, even when it's loving.

He's not shy about telling me what he needs.  If I try to play with him, or if I even try to sit down in the same room, he takes me by the hand and takes me to another room.  It took me awhile to believe him but I'm glad I did.  Even if it makes me a little sad, it's worth it to see him happy.

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