Friday, April 18, 2014

How to treat people

Lance: what's the golden rule and the platinum rule?

Dad: they are ideas about morality. about how people should treat each other.

Lance: how do they work?

Dad: the golden rule says: Treat a person how you want to be treated.

Lance: oh I've heard that before.

Dad: what do you think of it?

Lance: it makes sense.

Dad: what if what you wanted was for your friends to play the game you want whenever you asked for it? should other people do as you want whenever you say it?

Lance: no! I'm not the boss of them.

Dad: so you agree that the golden rule doesn't work.

Lance: well it could work sometimes.

Dad: but how would you know when it works and when it doesn't work?

Lance: you have to think about it.

Dad: think about it how? by what standard?

Lance: standard?

Dad: ya the golden rule is a standard of how to treat others.

Lance: um, wait, so what about the platinum rule?

Dad: it has the same kind of problem. it says: Treat a person the way he wants to be treated.

Lance: and when doesn't that work?

Dad: like, say a person wants to be controlled by people. so, should you control him?

Lance: who wants that?

Dad: well that's irrelevant to the question, but since you're asking, don't you remember Cash did that when he asked me to hide his candy so he doesn't eat too much and get sick?

Lance: oh ya lol!

Dad: what I did was argue that it's bad for him to give his control (responsibility) to me, and instead the better thing to do is for him to learn how to be responsible with his candy.

Lance: ya I remember. and he never ate that much candy again.

Lance: so what's the right way to treat people?

Dad: one way to say it is this: Treat a person the way he wants to be treated, or don't interact with him.

Lance: that sounds similar to the platinum rule.

Dad: it's vague though. it doesn't explain how to do it.

Dad: like, it doesn't say anything about how people should change their minds.

Lance: what do you mean?

Dad: well, it just makes it sound like people will either automatically have matching wants, or not, and then that's it. so someone might think that it's saying that they should either interact with each other because they have matching wants, or they should agree to disagree and not resort to violence and leave each other alone if they don't have matching wants. and there's nothing about what should happen in the middle, like how people should be willing to change their minds.

Lance: well what's in the middle is thinking.

Dad: yes, thinking about what they are proposing to do together.

Lance: what's so hard about that?

Dad: it's not hard. people do it constantly already. things only get hard when people refuse the possibility of changing their minds.

Dad: like, do you remember when we wanted to eat and you and Cash wanted McDonalds but I wanted Taco Bell?

Lance: ya.

Dad: and I suggested that we first go to Taco Bell, get my food in the drive-through, then to McDonalds to get your food and I eat my Taco Bell there and you guys play in the playground.

Dad: now imagine that I was unwilling to change my mind. imagine I said: "no we can't go to two places, nobody does that, that's stupid and embarrassing. The other McDonalds customers would laugh at us for eating Taco Bell food in McDonalds."

Lance: lol! ya that's stupid.

Dad: the only people that would laugh at us are the ones that think it's embarrassing to do stuff differently than others, which is stupid, so why should we care what they think of what we're doing?

Lance: so that's why people don't change their minds?

Dad: it's a common reason for why people don't change their mind, but it's not the only one.

---[personality traits are changeable]---

Lance: what are other common reasons?

Dad: well, none come to mind right now, but basically it's about having ideas that you aren't willing to change. some people have lots of those.

Lance: why?

Dad: some people learned that they have a personality and that it shouldn't be changed, or can't be changed, like it's a part of them and even the suggestion of changing a part of them feels like a personal attack to them. so they get offended and angry and they stop listening and stop cooperating.

Lance: [lost look on his face]

Dad: like, let's say there's someone who likes to jump into things. he's really courageous.

Lance: ya. is that bad?

Dad: it can be. there's lots of danger out there. he should do some research first. figure out whether it's a good idea or not.

Lance: ya.

Dad: but if you tell a person this stuff he might feel attacked that you're saying his personality is bad.

Lance: huh? why does he feel that way?

Dad: well, it's something that is common in society, so it's easy to learn this stuff when just about everybody thinks this way.

Dad: if you feel bad when somebody criticizes your methods, then you're never going to improve your methods. and the thing is that sometimes what's needed is to improve your methods, or else the person you're cooperating with might not want to continue interacting with you.

Lance: hmm.

Dad: like when Cash wanted to play chess with me, and he told me not to make a certain move, and he got upset when I made the move anyway. if Cash doesn't change his methods then I won't want to play chess with him.

Lance: but maybe you're the one who did something wrong. 

Dad: in general, yes it's possible that I did something wrong. but in this case, do you think I'm wrong to want to play chess without being controlled?

Lance: no. I don't like being controlled either.

Dad: it's no fun.

Lance: what else could you have done?

Dad: I said that he could have unlimited take-backs and I have none.

Lance: and what happened?

Dad: well that was before. we already agreed to that, and he still wanted to control me.

in other words, people should seek mutually-beneficial (cooperative) interactions and avoid non-mutually-beneficial ones (e.g. adversarial). a mutually-beneficial interaction is one where each person involved, in his own judgement, prefers the interaction over not interacting.

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