Why We Don’t Treat Others the Way We Want to Be Treated

Devan Kronisch
October 6, 2022
min to read

Everything you thought you knew about "The Golden Rule" might be wrong.

Why We Don’t Treat Others the Way We Want to Be Treated

Devan Kronisch
October 6, 2022
min to read

Everything you thought you knew about "The Golden Rule" might be wrong.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

Unless you work at an international company. Where if you treated people the way you want to be treated… you’d just end up with a lot of unhappy people. 

People don’t want to be treated in the same way. 

This is so hard to wrap our heads around because we all suffer from something called “false-consensus bias.” That’s the belief that everyone thinks and feels the same way we do about things (spoiler: they don’t).

False consensus bias is the belief that everyone thinks and feels the same way we do about things. And it’s totally wrong.

Our cultural background — whether we consider that race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other subculture group — influences what we see as ‘normal.’ 

As long as we work with people who are like us, we don’t notice our false-consensus bias (that’s where the whole spiel around “hiring for culture-fit” comes from). 

But when you work at an international company, the “golden rule” can fail spectacularly. 

So rather than crossing our fingers and hoping people figure out how to communicate across cultures in a productive and friendly way, we decided to do something about it. 

We created a framework for communicating with anyone. And we’re sharing it with everyone — because we don’t think Pipers are the only people who should know how to communicate effectively. 

Communication break down 

Let’s say a manager is trying to build trust with their direct report.

The manager comes from a culture that is task-based trust. The report comes from a culture that is relationship-based trust.

The manager treats their report the way they want to be treated — by giving plenty of project feedback and telling them they’re doing great work. 

The report, meanwhile, feels like their manager isn’t treating them as a person — because they build trust by spending personal time with people.    

The result? A manager who thinks they’re being super supportive — and a report who feels like their manager doesn’t trust them.

There’s the problem. Now, let’s talk about solutions.

Part 1: Communicating nonviolently

I work as a talent development coach at Chili Piper. I talk to people about their roadblocks, fears, and dreams for a living. 

Something that always comes up is this fear that we only have value if we are at least as good as others.

Most of us have been socialized into seeing ourselves as objects with flaws who should deny our needs but at the same time compete with others.
-Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication

Language helps cement those self-objectifying and judgmental views. That’s why the first part of how we tackle the problem at Chili Piper is through a communication framework. (I only get into a small piece of nonviolent communication in this article. You can learn more about it here.)

This framework shifts focus from “what’s being done between us” to “what’s the relationship between us.”

Here’s an example of how this could look in real life, following the nonviolent communication framework: 

  1. Observation: A factual, specific statement with no added assumptions, judgments, or evaluations. Allows for you having misheard.

“When I saw you arrive at the meeting after the start time…”

  1. Feeling: Explain what you are feeling without adding opinion, criticism, or moral judgment.

“...I felt frustrated…”

  1. Need: State the need that underlies your feelings — the reason for why you reacted to the situation the way you did. Make sure you only say things about yourself.

“…because I was needing participation from everyone who was invited…”

  1. Request: Ask for a specific action. Don’t take an initial ‘no’ as rejection.

“...Next time, would you consider letting me know if you’re going to be late?”

Okay, let’s pull it all together into a single NVC statement: 

“When I saw you arrive at the meeting after the start time, I felt frustrated, because I was needing participation from everyone who was invited. Next time, would you consider letting me know if you’re going to be late?”

Mic drop. 🎤 💥

Part 2: Active listening and nonverbal communication 

Just kidding. *picks mic back up* 🎤

A nonviolent communication framework is a great start, but only for people who feel comfortable enough in English (or spoken communication) to make it work and who can read cultural cues.

That’s where active listening and an awareness of cultural differences comes into the conversation. 

We built a training designed to help everyone understand how culture influences the way we communicate:

  • Nonviolent Communication Basics - Become aware of the filters and conventions we followed previously in our lives, and replace these spoken conventions with a needs-based approach to communication.
  • Nonverbal Communication and Active Listening - Align our nonverbal signals with the words we use, and be able to mindfully receive the entire message the other person is trying to send.
  • Crosscultural Communication - Learn what culture is, how it influences our everyday life, and how to navigate different cultural values and communication styles.
  • Individual Communication Differences - Learn about personality and neurodiversity and realize that often we react and talk a certain way because of differences, not ill intent. Reframe misunderstandings, increase mindfulness, and remove personal blame.

At the end of the training, we don’t expect everyone to be able to list each country’s value positions and communication styles.

Instead, it’s meant to help people learn about each other and start the conversation about how to work with each other — rather than past each other. 

Part 3: A cheat sheet

We didn’t just make everyone attend training and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. 

We gave them homework. 

But, fun homework. 

To help Pipers better understand their own cultural preferences, we created a cheat sheet template. We call it our “Working with Me Guide.” (Download here

In this guide, we ask questions like, “What can people do to help you feel appreciated and supported in your work?” and “How do you prefer to communicate?” 

Then Pipers will share their guide with their manager and other people on their team. 

So let’s go back to our scenario above.

The manager gets feedback that his report needs to feel more trusted. 

At first, the manager is shocked — but I gave them so much feedback and told them they were doing a good job!

Then, the manager reads their report’s Working with Me Guide… and they realize their report doesn’t build trust through feedback. They build trust through relationships.

So the manager schedules a weekly coffee break with their report, just to chit-chat about life and things.

And they all lived happily ever after

Not really. 

This isn’t a one-and-done approach. 

Learning how to communicate nonviolently and across differences is an ongoing journey. 

But it’s a journey our Pipers know they’re on.

And as the saying goes, awareness is the first step of change. 

As you might have guessed, I am a psychologist. I dedicated a decade of my life to studying how human differences and similarities impact our everyday lives. And I only just skimmed the surface with this article. 

If you’re like me and fascinated by this topic, here are some resources I’d recommend so you can learn more! 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

Unless you work at an international company. Where if you treated people the way you want to be treated… you’d just end up with a lot of unhappy people. 

People don’t want to be treated in the same way. 

This is so hard to wrap our heads around because we all suffer from something called “false-consensus bias.” That’s the belief that everyone thinks and feels the same way we do about things (spoiler: they don’t).

False consensus bias is the belief that everyone thinks and feels the same way we do about things. And it’s totally wrong.

Our cultural background — whether we consider that race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other subculture group — influences what we see as ‘normal.’ 

As long as we work with people who are like us, we don’t notice our false-consensus bias (that’s where the whole spiel around “hiring for culture-fit” comes from). 

But when you work at an international company, the “golden rule” can fail spectacularly. 

So rather than crossing our fingers and hoping people figure out how to communicate across cultures in a productive and friendly way, we decided to do something about it. 

We created a framework for communicating with anyone. And we’re sharing it with everyone — because we don’t think Pipers are the only people who should know how to communicate effectively. 

Communication break down 

Let’s say a manager is trying to build trust with their direct report.

The manager comes from a culture that is task-based trust. The report comes from a culture that is relationship-based trust.

The manager treats their report the way they want to be treated — by giving plenty of project feedback and telling them they’re doing great work. 

The report, meanwhile, feels like their manager isn’t treating them as a person — because they build trust by spending personal time with people.    

The result? A manager who thinks they’re being super supportive — and a report who feels like their manager doesn’t trust them.

There’s the problem. Now, let’s talk about solutions.

Part 1: Communicating nonviolently

I work as a talent development coach at Chili Piper. I talk to people about their roadblocks, fears, and dreams for a living. 

Something that always comes up is this fear that we only have value if we are at least as good as others.

Most of us have been socialized into seeing ourselves as objects with flaws who should deny our needs but at the same time compete with others.
-Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication

Language helps cement those self-objectifying and judgmental views. That’s why the first part of how we tackle the problem at Chili Piper is through a communication framework. (I only get into a small piece of nonviolent communication in this article. You can learn more about it here.)

This framework shifts focus from “what’s being done between us” to “what’s the relationship between us.”

Here’s an example of how this could look in real life, following the nonviolent communication framework: 

  1. Observation: A factual, specific statement with no added assumptions, judgments, or evaluations. Allows for you having misheard.

“When I saw you arrive at the meeting after the start time…”

  1. Feeling: Explain what you are feeling without adding opinion, criticism, or moral judgment.

“...I felt frustrated…”

  1. Need: State the need that underlies your feelings — the reason for why you reacted to the situation the way you did. Make sure you only say things about yourself.

“…because I was needing participation from everyone who was invited…”

  1. Request: Ask for a specific action. Don’t take an initial ‘no’ as rejection.

“...Next time, would you consider letting me know if you’re going to be late?”

Okay, let’s pull it all together into a single NVC statement: 

“When I saw you arrive at the meeting after the start time, I felt frustrated, because I was needing participation from everyone who was invited. Next time, would you consider letting me know if you’re going to be late?”

Mic drop. 🎤 💥

Part 2: Active listening and nonverbal communication 

Just kidding. *picks mic back up* 🎤

A nonviolent communication framework is a great start, but only for people who feel comfortable enough in English (or spoken communication) to make it work and who can read cultural cues.

That’s where active listening and an awareness of cultural differences comes into the conversation. 

We built a training designed to help everyone understand how culture influences the way we communicate:

  • Nonviolent Communication Basics - Become aware of the filters and conventions we followed previously in our lives, and replace these spoken conventions with a needs-based approach to communication.
  • Nonverbal Communication and Active Listening - Align our nonverbal signals with the words we use, and be able to mindfully receive the entire message the other person is trying to send.
  • Crosscultural Communication - Learn what culture is, how it influences our everyday life, and how to navigate different cultural values and communication styles.
  • Individual Communication Differences - Learn about personality and neurodiversity and realize that often we react and talk a certain way because of differences, not ill intent. Reframe misunderstandings, increase mindfulness, and remove personal blame.

At the end of the training, we don’t expect everyone to be able to list each country’s value positions and communication styles.

Instead, it’s meant to help people learn about each other and start the conversation about how to work with each other — rather than past each other. 

Part 3: A cheat sheet

We didn’t just make everyone attend training and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. 

We gave them homework. 

But, fun homework. 

To help Pipers better understand their own cultural preferences, we created a cheat sheet template. We call it our “Working with Me Guide.” (Download here

In this guide, we ask questions like, “What can people do to help you feel appreciated and supported in your work?” and “How do you prefer to communicate?” 

Then Pipers will share their guide with their manager and other people on their team. 

So let’s go back to our scenario above.

The manager gets feedback that his report needs to feel more trusted. 

At first, the manager is shocked — but I gave them so much feedback and told them they were doing a good job!

Then, the manager reads their report’s Working with Me Guide… and they realize their report doesn’t build trust through feedback. They build trust through relationships.

So the manager schedules a weekly coffee break with their report, just to chit-chat about life and things.

And they all lived happily ever after

Not really. 

This isn’t a one-and-done approach. 

Learning how to communicate nonviolently and across differences is an ongoing journey. 

But it’s a journey our Pipers know they’re on.

And as the saying goes, awareness is the first step of change. 

As you might have guessed, I am a psychologist. I dedicated a decade of my life to studying how human differences and similarities impact our everyday lives. And I only just skimmed the surface with this article. 

If you’re like me and fascinated by this topic, here are some resources I’d recommend so you can learn more! 

Devan Kronisch

Dr. Devan Kronisch is a Talent Development Coach at Chili Piper. When they aren't enabling Pipers to reach their goals and potential they enjoy being heads down with either DEI work or building training. Outside of work you'll find them one of two places, all across the trails of Canada's Ocean Playground, or glued to their laptop hammering out stories.

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