You are using an outdated browser.
For a better experience, please upgrade your browser here.

The Platinum Rule of Friendship

2 minutes, 20 seconds

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated. But the way you want to be treated when facing adversity may be completely different from how others want to be treated. Use the Platinum Rule instead: treat others how they want to be treated.

SHERYL: Growing up, I was taught the Golden Rule. Everyone was. Treat others as you would want to be treated. The problem is that in trauma that doesn't exactly work because at least I didn't know how other people would want to be treated and I think I often got it wrong.

ADAM: The way that you want to be treated may be completely different from what other people actually need when they're struggling with adversity.

SHERYL: Adam taught me the Platinum Rule. Treat others as they would want to be treated. And I think that's really important.

Option B The Platinum Rule of Friendship with Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant Authors of Option B

ADAM: There's a study that I learned about from one of my mentors, Brian Little, where people were put under stress. They were basically blasted with just uncomfortably loud noise and nobody liked it. They really struggled on all the tasks that they were trying to do at the time. And then the psychologist said what if – what if we could give these people a button to press if the noise got uncomfortably loud?

ADAM: And sure enough, when the participants got the button, they were much more able to tolerate the noise. That's not surprising. What is surprising though is that none of the participants actually pressed the button.

ADAM: So it wasn't making the noise go away that helped them. It was just knowing that they had a button to press. Part of being a good friend is being a button to somebody else.

Part of being a good friend is being a “button” for others to press if their pain is too much

SHERYL: Saying, “Is there anything I can do?” is a nice offer but it's really hard for that to be helpful, because it shifts the burden to the person who's suffering to tell you what they need, and it's really hard. What do you ask for?

SHERYL: The requests either seem too small or too big. It's hard to ask for things. So rather than offering to do anything just do something.

We often learn what people need not by offering help, but by taking action

SHERYL: My colleague Dan Levy, who very sadly lost his child, when his son was in the hospital, said that one friend texted him, what do you not want on a burger? I'm coming, I'm bringing you a burger, what do you not want on it? Another friend went to the lobby of the hospital and said, I'm in the lobby of the hospital in case you want a hug for the next hour, whether you come down or not.

SHERYL: The act of just doing something is much better than the offer of what can I do.

More Option B videos