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.  In summary, it states that you should treat other people as you would like to be treated.

However, 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.

A direct application of this rule helps develop empathy, as we think of how we might feel in a certain situation and receiving a particular treatment. 

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

According to the above quote, etiquette 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.

When you pass someone on the street who looks as if she may not be having a great day, try giving a smile or say hello.  Odds are, you'll get a smile in return.  And there's a great possibility you just made her day better.

After all, doesn't it feel nice when you receive a smile and acknowledgement from someone?  It doesn't have to be a close or lengthy encounter, just a meaningful one.  

And the ethic of reciprocity in action may cause others to notice a sad face on a person whom they happen to meet in passing by initiating the warmth of an intentional smile. 

When you can relate to people according to what they may be feeling, your relationships with friends and family improve, and everyone you encounter will regard you as a kind person.

Begin intentionally practicing these rules - Golden and etiquette - and notice how much friendlier your world becomes.

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