Art by Vivian Hsia
Transparency Item: The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.
The Golden Rule, the ethical principle as the Bible says in Matthew 7:12, states to treat others as you would like to be treated. One step forward from that is to replace your own preferences with how others want to be treated.
Growing up in a Chinese household, my parent taught me the same rule from an excerpt of “The Analects,” Confucius‘s famous sayings as a politician and educator. The notion is planted in various cultures and thus universally accepted.
However, it is egocentric to make the assumption everyone wants to be treated in the same way. Individuals raised in different cultural contexts can have vastly different boundaries in feeling comfortable or offended.
While some are immersed in a majority culture, it can be hard to realize how rules, particularly the implicit ones, are designed for the majority, and the rest are excluded.
I used to digest theoretical frameworks from social science by applying them to my personal life. I expect a deeper understanding of concepts through reflections and a life closer to the ideal.
Yet, in the meantime, I fell into a trap. I presumed the reverse idea that when people treated me in a way I believed was unwanted by most people, something needed to be fixed because they were not following the Golden Rule. Deviations from the ‘right track,’ which theoretically facilitates healthy relationships, became cues of lacking trust and investment.
Avoidance and isolation in relationships are abnormal under many circumstances, and I presumed the same for the relationship with someone important in my life. While I prefer sincere disclosure as the solution, disputes arose when I tried to put it into practice, and insistence led to further counter-effect.
I only realized my wrong assumptions after reading the research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Psychological withdrawal, a lack of motivation and unwillingness to communicate are typical effects in relationships for people with clinical depression.
While the relationship itself may not trigger these symptoms, they sometimes serve as a warning sign — a pause on further emotional demand. I learned after multiple quarrels that instead of pushing boundaries, standing aside for companionship but leaving enough personal space was the more appropriate choice.
My perception of a healthy way to develop a relationship was significantly biased in that circumstance. My knowledge of their diagnosis in advance but failure to listen closely was the actual factor that took a toll on both of us.
Every relationship should have its unique solution to emerging issues. Instead of making assumptions based on personal views, it is better to hear from them.
The process of normalizing a phenomenon goes together with marginalizing others. People who do not belong to the majority are more likely to be stigmatized, according to the research published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass. The stigmatized experiences are often caused by stress, discrimination and expectations of rejection for being outliers.
By skipping things that are ‘needless to say,‘ common sense seems to make lives easier. One essential thing we often miss is that the sense may not be common at all for those who share fewer similarities. Most of the time, the unspoken assumptions implicitly separate in-groups and out-groups, which leads to exclusion.
While everyone can have a unique identity that counts as the minority, and anybody can be one when entering a new environment, the old familiar guidelines may not work the same way. Be aware of how others want to be treated and develop different rules with each people you meet.
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