Using The Golden Rule
as an Etiquette Rule

Giving a friendly smile

Perhaps you learned The Golden Rule as a youngster.  Nearly every religion recognizes some form of it in various texts.  Basiclally, you should treat other people as you would like to be treated.

This religious teaching, or Ethic of Reciprocity, as it is also sometime known, is quite meaningful when applied to everyday life occurrences.  Practicing it makes us more mindful of the situations of others.

Thinking about how we might feel in a certain situation receiving a particular treatment helps us grow strong in empathy. 

For instance, you are headed for a grocery check-out line with a cart full of items.  Someone with only a few items in hand is headed for the same line.  You notice this, and offer that person the opportunity to go ahead of you because your transaction will take much longer. 

If the roles were reversed, wouldn't you appreciate if this consideration were given to you?  Of course!  Recognizing this fact triggers you to show the kindness of letting someone with fewer items go ahead of you.

A Few Examples of
The Golden Rule

All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Matthew 7:1

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Udana-Varga 5,1

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.
Talmud, Shabbat 3id


Etiquette and The Golden Rule

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.  ~ Emily Post

Manners and The Golden Rule go hand in hand.  And you can see their close relation in many etiquette rules.

  • Shaking hands as a pleasantry or gesture of good will.
  • Opening a door for someone, or holding a door open for the person behind you to pass through.
  • Sending a thank-you note for a thoughtful gift received.
  • Listening to and placing focus on a conversation partner.
  • Greeting each guest attending your party and making everyone feel welcome.

As humans, we all have a need to feel acknowledged and appreciated.  The Golden Rule suggests that since we want to feel this way, we should acknowledge and appreciate other people.  Etiquette rules provide the guidelines for actually doing so.

Developing Mindfulness and Empathy

By consciously observing The Golden Rule in your daily life, you begin to notice each encounter you have with others.  You become mindful of what they may be experiencing in that moment. 

During the pandemic, we don't get to see each others full faces, but we might notice a furrowed brow and that might occasion a kind spoken word as you pass one another in the  grocery story aisle.  "Goodness, shopping these days can be tough."  You can smile underneath your mask, and somehow, I can't help but think that it matters.  

When you pass someone on the street whose body language signals she might not be having a great day, saying hello takes the place of a smile.  Odds are, you'll get a pleasant hello in return.  And there's a great possibility you just made her day better. 

Join me in intentionally practicing these rules - Golden and etiquette - let's do our part in making this world a friendlier place.

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