Social Negotiation into 2021
Why 'Treat Others as You Wish to be Treated' is terrible advice
The Year of Change
2020 leaves many legacies. One of those legacies is the negotiation of the most basic social rituals. How people view the threat of the virus is not binary; some people are super-conscientious to the point of mild paranoia, others can be relaxed or sceptical to the point of irresponsibility.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Many of us, me included, live our lives trying to treat other people in the best and kindest way we can. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. However, when you think about it, that mantra doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.
Back in the 80s and 90s, many corporations imposed the One Size Fits All Customer Service Model. As a teenager being trained on the till in my local McDonald’s, I was instructed to say ‘May I help you please?’ to each and every customer. The phrase was a parody, it was the first thing Brits would mock when criticising the American chain. The first time I had to say it out loud to a customer, I collapsed laughing. It seemed so wrong and disingenuous.
To really demonstrate how inappropriate the Do Unto Others mantra is, I look back on my former job aboard Eurostar, the international High Speed Train, where I ended up looking after up to 800 people per journey. Every single one of those people was different. Every single one was travelling for a different reason, be it a business trip, a hen party, or a funeral. Of course you wouldn’t treat them all in the same way, but you would treat them all with respect.
The Platinum Rule
If doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is the Golden Rule, maybe it’s time to upgrade to the Platinum Rule:
Do Unto Others as They Would Have Done Unto Themselves
Treat others as they wish to be treated.
Hugs are no longer free to give. Hugging someone is not a one-way transaction. As a hugger myself, I find this difficult. It doesn’t matter if you are OK with hugging someone, that person might have a dozen valid reasons why they do not wish to be hugged. We might be comfortable meeting a friend in our house, but our friend might have a many good reasons for not wishing to share indoor space with us.
I can resist anything - except temptation
I have a lot in common with Oscar Wilde, who famously gave us the above quote. It would be abhorrent to offer a drink to a recovering alcoholic, or a cigarette to a recently-quit non smoker. Yet for some reason, a lot of people still offer unhealthy foods to those wishing to improve their diet for health reasons. Sugar is purported to be more addictive than some hard drugs; it’s incredibly hard to resist. One of my friends is diabetic and sometimes has a really tough time trying to get the message through to people.
‘The problem is,’ he tells me, ‘It’s that they want to have a donut, so they bring a box of them into the house. Their encouragement to eat a donut is not about me, I’m diabetic and a donut will do me a lot of harm, it’s all about them. They want to feel less guilty about their bad eating, so they encourage me to do the same. The problem is, I might start losing my fingers and toes.’
If the people we are with really care about us, they wouldn’t use us as guilt sponges. This is something we all need to start considering as we once again start spending time with friends.
There are all sorts of predictions about how the New Normal is going to look, be it pent-up exuberance or a new era of mass mindfulness. Either way, social negotiation has become the new normal, and we have to learn to respect views and fears that are different to ours, stop projecting our weaknesses onto others, and graciously accept people’s personal needs and fears without question, no matter how limiting or overcautious they sound to us. In 2021, we need to start treating others as they wish to be treated.
One last thing to say in 2020
Just before we boot 2020 into the wilderness and cross our fingers for a brighter 2021, there’s one last thing I’d like to say to you all.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
It’s been a difficult year for everyone. In March, all the work I had lined up simply evaporated. I thought my phone would ring off the hook with offers once Lockdown was over, but it didn’t.
I launched Streamlining this year in order to maintain a more direct and intimate connection with the people who really matter, and also my Buy Me a Coffee page, for those in a position to support the work I do.
I’m utterly blown away by the sheer number of people who have signed up for Streamlining, with each post now being read over 1000 times. I’m also staggered by the generosity of many kind folks who have bought me a coffee this year. Meanwhile, over on YouTube, the channel just hit 60,000 subscribers and 13 million views. Not bad for one man in a van with a dog and no budget who was laughed out of the NEC a few short years ago.
None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for you. So thank you. Thank you for your support during a tough year, and I look forward to your company in 2021.
How to Support Streamlining
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1. If you wish, you can show your support for what I do through Buy Me a Coffee. Although I’ll probably end up buying tea. Or snacks for Dougal. But most likely diesel. Or putting it towards my Skoda Enyaq (one day…)
I understand that not everyone who would like to will be in a position to support in this way, and that’s absolutely fine! My content is available to everyone, regardless of their circumstances.
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