I once had a boss who was my opposite in just about every way.

  • He’s direct, I’m a diplomat.
  • He prefers the 30,000 foot view, I live in the details.
  • He’s spontaneous, I’m a planner.
  • He surrounds himself with a team of collaborators, I enjoy working independently.

Needless to say, we had a tough time relating to each other.

Do you have someone in your life that you struggle to connect with? Maybe it feels like you’re speaking different languages. Maybe it’s challenging to find common ground. And maybe their style just rubs you the wrong way.

That was certainly my early experience when I worked with this boss. I was uncomfortable around him. In fact, he made me nervous with his brusque manner and how quickly he made decisions. I’m also pretty sure I frustrated him with my methodical pace and extremely detailed explanations.

I’d resigned myself to just surviving in this relationship…until a staff training session introduced me to personal styles and the Platinum Rule.

Personal Styles: Grab Your Decoder Ring

Maybe you’ve taken a personal style assessment before. Systems like Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and E-Colors help identify your tendencies, strengths, and blind spots. Knowing this information about yourself helps you make better decisions about everything from your career path to your personal relationships.

Learning about personal styles also helps you identify the tendencies, strengths, and blind spots of the people in your life. Once you’ve articulated these patterns for your colleagues, for instance, you can make choices that work with – instead of against – how they typically operate in the world. And that can help smooth over potential rough patches and make it easier to work together.

That’s the beauty of the Platinum Rule.

The Platinum Rule

A term coined by Tony Alessandra and Michael J. O’Connor, the Platinum Rule says, “Treat other people the way they want to be treated.” This philosophy plays on the idea of the Golden Rule, which says, “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.”

The Golden Rule is a wonderful guideline for treating other people with the respect, dignity, and integrity that we all want to receive.

The problem is that when we treat everyone the way we prefer to be treated, we inevitably cause frustration and conflict. This was my initial challenge with my opposite-style boss. I approached him the way I like to be approached and expected that same detailed, methodical, independent style to work for him.

For example: my boss, who preferred to make decisions quickly based on gut reactions, would get twitchy, bored, and irritated when I tried to have lengthy, “let’s weigh all of the pros and cons” conversations with him. He wanted to get to the point, while I wanted to cover all the bases, options, and outcomes.

A New Approach

Once I learned about personal styles and the Platinum Rule, I decided to try a different approach with him. I recognized his preference for getting right to the point, so I started my next meeting with him by giving him a one-sentence summary of my project. I realized that instead of wanting to explore all of the possibilities with me, he was looking to me for a decisive recommendation about next steps – so that’s what I gave him.

And wouldn’t you know it? It worked. That meeting, and our meetings going forward, were more productive and less nerve-wracking (for me) and more efficient and less frustrating (for him) because I was trying to treat him the way he wanted to be treated.

I invite you to try the Platinum Rule with the challenging person in your life. With a subtle shift towards their preferences and strengths, you’ll probably find that working together becomes easier and more enjoyable.

Want another strategy to prevent conflict and build a stronger, more positive relationship with that opposite-style person in your life? Read more here!