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Forget the Golden Rule

When it comes to partnerships, negotiation rules don’t always apply. After all, partnerships are not about maximum gain for one party but about optimum gain for both or several parties. No rules, but some guidelines, yes. These guidelines tend to shape effective and harmonious partnerships.

One of them is following the Platinum Rule.

We all know the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.” But for contract drafting and negotiations, I tend to prefer the platinum rule: “Do not unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” So you see there how the platinum rule merely takes the golden rule and turns it into the negative. “What’s the big deal about the negative?” you might think.

Well … there’s a big deal actually. The negative provides limits to work from and not the airy-fairy and happy-go-lucky wants that are never actually put into practice using the golden rule. In negotiations, rather, the platinum rule helps to cuts out the BS, and that’s really helpful.

When you encourage people in a contract negotiation setting to think about what they don’t want done to themselves rather than what they do want, the conversation becomes much more productive and real solutions can developed and applied.

I think maybe it has to do with the fact that it’s easy to think about what you should do unto others. You should be nice to them, of course. Thinking in terms of the golden rule, you would say things like, “We should be transparent because we want to be open about all the aspects of the business and we choose to do this because it results in better alliances.” But contract negotiations aren’t always about being nice or about promising transparency. They’re about ensuring that everyone at the table can be content with the stipulations of the agreement. So when you say “do not unto others,” you create clearer boundaries for what should and should not be done in this alliance.

In applying the platinum rule, you aren’t saying things like “I should be transparent,” you’re saying things like, “I don’t want them to lie to me, so I’m not going to lie to them.” The effect is completely different because the spirit is more defining. You aren’t asking for an esoteric concept like transparency. You’re promising not to lie.

It’s a strange phenomenon, but the platinum rule tends to build a more reciprocal relationship that helps to balance out the fairness in the agreement. Through the platinum rule, you can see more clearly what it would be like to be in the other person’s shoes and can determine more accurately how your actions would and should affect both their business as well as the relationship.


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