In my work as a development specialist, I'm constantly surprised by the ability of individuals to surprise me. That, in itself, shouldn't surprise me! After all, I've been working with people and development for a number of years and I understand - with my head at least - that individuals are complex and fascinating and, above all, individual. But I, like everyone else, have a perfectly natural human tendency to assume that everyone is just like me!

I work with a lot of managers and leaders, who make the same, understandable, mistake. They look at the people within their teams and assume that they are a collection of people like them. They assume that the same things motivate them, that the same things are important to them, that they share the same values. I often have to counsel managers that, however understandable, this is a fundamental error of judgement and that many others will flow from this basic mistake!

This doesn't just apply to managers or only within the sphere of work – it applies in our personal lives, too. Granted, we can choose our friends, so we will often find ourselves with people who are more like us, who do share the same values and way of looking at the world. But they are not us – the stories of their lives are not the story of our lives. No matter how similar they appear, they are different in many ways - perhaps more ways than we imagine.

The "Golden Rule" in many great religions and philosophies can be summed up by the phrase "treat others in the way you would be treated". This is good advice, too often unheeded and few people wouldn't want to be treated with respect, dignity and kindness. It speaks to a desire within us treat others well, just as we want to be treated well.

But over and above this fundamental level, when we’re thinking about how we can apply this golden rule in our lives, let me suggest that we set aside what we would want and treat others as they would be treated.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Smith is an experienced facilitator, coach and development consultant. He currently works in the UK but offers email coaching to clients around the world. His email address is