The Golden Rule–Updated

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” -–It’s rare to find someone who isn’t familiar with this saying.

Before you read any further, write down your response to these 2 questions:

1. How would you describe what this means? Write that down.
2. List the actions and qualities you would like “others to do unto you.” Write these down.

Which of the qualities you listed in #2 do you think applies to most people you know, or at least in the relationships that matter to you?

Which of the qualities or actions you listed in #2 do not apply to people you know?

Assumption I: The Golden Rule implies that others want to be treated the way you want to be treated.

There are qualities that are likely more popular than others. it helps to identify which qualities you listed that you think would fit the “popular” category, and which ones reflect your unique history. Most of our ideas about these attributes are based on the outcomes of our own personal experiences.

Here’s a real-life example: a woman (we’ll call her Laura) was raised by a highly self-centered mother, to the point of Narcissism. The mother was not interested in her daughter’s feelings or in listening to her daughter on pretty much any subject. When Laura became a parent, she thought she knew what her children valued—being listened to. So, Laura became a really good listener. When her daughter was about 16, she said to Laura: “Mom, there’s something you do that I really hate!” Laura asked, “What’s that?” Her daughter replied, “You never talk about yourself, I can’t get to know you!”

Think about your own experiences. Do you identify qualities or actions you assume another person wants without checking it out? How often do you make an effort to recognize where there are similarities or differences in what you would like and what the other person would like?

When you act on your assumptions without identifying the other person’s wishes and/or needs, misunderstandings, disappointment, and distancing from the relationship will likely occur, sometimes to the point of alienation. It can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, even angry that the other person doesn’t appreciate your efforts.

Assumption II: The Golden Rule: What are your Expectations?

Some of us are fortunate enough to simply be glad to treat others kindly out of the generosity of our hearts, expecting nothing in return.

However, both in my professional life with my therapy and coaching clients, and in my personal life, I’ve often encountered people who become frustrated and disappointed even angry, with others when they “do unto others” and don’t experience reciprocity/equal treatment back. For them, practicing The Golden Rule generates the expectation that they will be treated in a similar fashion.

If this sounds like you, ask yourself if your Golden Rule actions are motivated by some of your own needs that haven’t been met elsewhere. You may be hoping to get those needs met by “demonstrating” what you would like for yourself.

Ask yourself: “What is the true motivation behind the way I treat others?” “Do I want others to give me what I haven’t been willing or able to give myself?” For example, do you long for others to appreciate certain qualities or deeds of yours? If this is true for you, your behavior may be a desire for the other person to read your mind, based on your actions.

No one knows better than you what you want and need, and what it takes to make that happen. For example, if you want to feel appreciated, what words or actions would be satisfying? What are you seeking from others that you can do to show yourself more appreciation?

Here are some ways you can decrease or eliminate your focus on getting others to meet your needs–and therefore reduce your disappointment. (write these down)

  • Identify what are the words or behaviors you want from others (either specific or general).
  • Have these been missing in your life? Using the example of appreciation, how and from whom has this been lacking in your life?
  • Have you been unable or unwilling to give yourself appreciation in a way that is satisfying?
  • What are the messages/judgments in your head that keep you from self-appreciation?
  • How can you re-write the message to allow you to feel better?
  • Practice some mindfulness mediation, focusing on the message you want to send yourself.
  • Ask a trusted friend or relative what they appreciate about you, or if they would be willing to give you the honest input you desire on whatever the issue is. (If it’s not genuine, you won’t believe them)

The updated Golden Rule: “Do unto others according to their needs and wishes– and do for yourself more of what you would like others to do unto you.”

When you develop ways to give yourself what you are wanting from others,you will be able to release energy so you can recognize and accept what others need and be able to give it more freely, since your own needs will not interfere. Your self-esteem will grow. You will experience less disappointment in others. You will be able to understand and accept the needs and wishes of others that might be different than yours. It will improve your relationships with others—and with yourself! This doesn’t mean you will never want or enjoy validation from others—it will just be the frosting on the cake!

I’d be interested in hearing your comments on this subject.

Please feel free to share with anyone who might be interested.

Best wishes,


(You can see previous blogs by going to my website: