Golden Rule Caveats

Lesson 1: Topic 15 of 19

And yet, as they make plain in the above quote, there is a potential problem. Due to our very human tendency for projection – to assume the other person would want what we would want, if we actually were in their shoes – we might misapply the Golden Rule. For this reason, there are some practitioners who advocate abandoning its use as a heuristic in healthcare environments.

Rather than rejecting it, we suggest this potential problem can be resolved by keeping in mind the following:

  • Be mindful that the Rule is to do, insofar as possible, what others would like for themselves, not what you would like for them, or what you would like for yourself if you were in their position. It is about their  preferences, their  needs, and their goals. 

  • Remember you are not called to take action that makes you feel good about yourself. This is about empathy, not narcissism. 

  • Be sure to identify the real problem before applying what you think is the solution.
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The first two points above are self-explanatory, but that last one must be emphasized. Are you sure you know what is the issue? Is the CNA habitually late because she’s lazy, or because she’s overwhelmed, sandwiched with caring for her small children and her aging parents? Do the Business Manager’s mistakes stem from needing additional training, or needing additional oversight? 

Yes, apply the Golden Rule, but do some thoughtful investigating before acting.

Even the most caring, empathic solution, if applied to the wrongly identified problem, will solve nothing. In the words of the fictional Captain Jack Sparrow (from Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean franchise), “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude toward the problem.” Don’t put yourself in that position!

Pause and consider: How might you realistically infuse your work environment with a Golden Rule ethos?