Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Platinum Rule - Tony Alessandra,Michael J. O'Connor

Subtitled: Discover the Four Basic Business Personalities - And How They Can Lead You to Success. Only the book is so much more than that. But you don't know that until you read it. You don't even believe that until you read it. My highly tolerant and very patient mentor has told me about this book for years. But it took a dramatic turn in our working relationship to actually motivate me to buy the book and read it. And now I feel like such a fool for not having read it sooner.

As the title suggests, this is a twist on "The Golden Rule" which we all remember from elementary school as being: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Only that's a bit misguided. Because how I want it done unto me might not be at all how you want done unto you. Hence the "Platinum Rule" is about doing unto others as they would choose to have it done. That is a deceptively simple idea. Because how do I know what it is that you want?

We have to learn first about our own styles of communication and motivation before we can understand what drives other people and how we must adapt our communication style to deliver what they require. In the very last chapter of the book, the authors point out: "By choosing how we act, we can encourage others to respond more positively. This works not only for adults in the workplace but for people of all ages in all of life's other arena's: home, school, sports, shopping, you name it! . . . Being the best person you can be by treating people the way they want to be treated pays off enormously." Deceptively simple, but you won't believe this until you read the book.

This was very life changing for me. Mainly because I had to look at, and then own, the personality type that I am: a Socializer. Or more precisely within the subcategories, a Directing Socializer ("The Enthusiast") on the borderline with a Thinking Socializer ("The Impresser.") After I got over being defensive about this assessment and climbed out of my pit of denial, I could start to understand the fundamental truths of what the book was saying. This is not to say that I agree with all of their broad generalizations about the four personality types, only that I agree they exist, and that learning to adapt to other people's communication styles and ways of thinking is extremely beneficial to everyone involved. This is sensitivity training at it's very best and it's very practical. This is very much a "how to" kind of book: First the what, then the why and finally the how.

My coach and mentor is a Thinker. He works so hard to make me understand, accept and implement what he knows to be true. And I resist. But I never understood until now that he is grounded in logic and I am grounded in feeling. He's brought me a long way, but I have to meet him halfway. And I couldn't do that when I didn't understand how we were approaching the same subject from different perspectives. He has worked to adapt to my communication style, but I never realized that there were different styles that needed to be adapted to!

Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a client who is also a friend. It was not a business related conversation, but in the middle of emphatically stating my opinion, Nancy said: "But it's not about you Catherine. It's just not all about you." And I was stunned, but totally got the message. It was a bulls eye. The center of my universe might be me, but no one else will be joining me there. And my coach has probably said that a hundred different ways in as many situations and I never heard the message. I understood he was speaking English, but I wasn't getting it. I got it now.

This book is invaluable. I can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading it. It can open up a whole new world of understanding in why we speak but are not heard, and why we "listen" but do not hear. We need to focus on the needs of other people - not just our own. This book shows us how to recognize what it is that other people need and to adapt our own behaviors to provide that level of communication so that they "win" and so do we. It is indeed life changing. Don't wait as long as I did to read it.

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