Always remember the platinum rule!

If you are at your Christmas party and you’ve had a few drinks think very carefully about how the people you are with would like to be treated
Barry Shannon

"And so this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun”. So sung Mr Lennon back in the day and while we aren’t into 2018 just yet I guess it’s that time of year when we can start to reflect on the past 11 to 12 months (where has the time gone?).

One interesting thing that I learned about (fairly recently, it must be said), was the platinum rule. Now we all know the golden rule, right? Treat others the way you would like to be treated. By and large that’s pretty sound advice. But how many of you have heard of the platinum rule? Be honest now! To be fair, it’s probably more widely known in the customer service arena. The essence of it is: treat others the way THEY would like to be treated. Not ‘you’, but ‘they’.

When I sat back to muse on it (as we literary greats tend to do) I realised: not everyone thinks like me, nor do they all have similar interests. I obsess about books, others don’t read. People don’t always laugh at the things I find funny and sometimes I don’t laugh at what they think is hilarious. I could happily listen to Tom Waits serenade me day and night, yet my wife thinks he sounds like something from the pits of hell. Not everyone likes banana on pizza, yet (bizarrely) some people actually eat mustard. Straight to Room 101 for that stuff by the way.

The point is, if we project our likes, dislikes and tastes onto others, we might think we are doing the right thing, but instead we can be in real danger of completely missing the mark. What motivates one person will not inspire the next. Jane might be fanatical about pension contributions, yet Jemma might be more interested in health care benefits. Joe might be career driven, while Jim just lives for the social side of work. We are all different.

The key here is to understand what others want, what they value, what their drivers are. How do they communicate with you and more importantly; how they like to be communicated with? Once we understand these we are better able to put ourselves in a position where we can both meet their needs and in turn get what we need from them. If we know that someone bases all their decisions on data and analytics for example, then that’s how you need to influence them. Don’t give them blue sky, technicolour, widescreen epic visions of what you see as the future of the business. Give them hard facts and figures. Other people may love that bigger picture and get sold on the razzmatazz side of things, while spreadsheets, financial projections and risk calculations will turn them right off. Look to them for cues, not yourself.

And finally, as a socially responsible HR person: here’s a tip for the (potentially) tipsy. If you are at your Christmas party and you’ve had a few drinks (or even if you haven’t had any alcohol): think very carefully about how the people you are with would like to be treated. Remember that your sense of humour may not be the same as theirs, same thing with your political views, your world ideology or your approach to romance. Don’t be cracking jokes about Jesus to someone who is very religious and gets easily offended. Keep your hands where they are wanted (that goes for everyone) and for goodness sake don’t try to force your idea of fun on anyone else. In essence, know your audience before you speak or act and hopefully returning to the office after the party will be something to look forward to, not dread.

And finally: have a good one folks and here’s to 2018!

::Barry Shannon ( is HR director at Cayan in Belfast

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