“I treat others how I would like to be treated.”
A client recently repeated this familiar refrain to me during our discussion about disagreement in the workplace. I understand the sentiment and it’s a great starting point, but I would argue that this isn’t what is needed in our relationships. Here’s why.
In relationships, it’s not enough to simply model the way we want to be treated. We need to take it one step further.
As human beings we have general basic needs, like feeling safe, heard and acknowledged, but when it comes to relationships with others our needs can be very contrasting. As different people with different needs, values and perspectives, different things trigger us, bring us joy and fulfill us.
Our needs can be very different
If I give you what works for me—even with the best of intentions—it may not be what you need.
For example, when I feel anxious or challenged, I want to talk about it immediately. When others feel anxious, they may need space and time to process before talking about it (if at all).
In conversations, I find it useful when people jump in and say what they need to say in the moment. Others need more order and prefer to speak without any interruption. What I need, and how I deal with a circumstance, can be very different from what another person needs.
Therefore, instead of treating people how you wish to be treated yourself, find ways to relate to them as an individual.
Take time to understand what they might need and how you can best support them. Only then can we create stronger relationships.
Celebrate these differences
In the coming weeks, I encourage you to celebrate our common values and our unique differences.
- Take some time to consider the perspective of someone you don’t always agree with. Ask them what they need or feel.
- In a relationship that is important to you at work or at home, try to understand how they need you to show your support, respect, love and/or appreciation.
The answers may be surprising and very helpful to you both moving forward.