The Platinum Rule


Dr. Tony Alessandra

An indisputable business fact is that people do business with people they like—"When Two People Want To Do Business Together, They Don't Let the Details Stand in The Way." It makes sense, therefore, to like and be liked by as many people as possible. The ability to create rapport with a large number of people is a fundamental skill in sales, management, personal relationships, and everyday life.

We have all heard of the Golden Rule—and many people aspire to live by it. The Golden Rule is not a panacea. Think about it: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Golden Rule implies the basic assumption that other people would like to be treated the way that you would like to be treated. That is patently false. In fact, it could be argued that the Golden Rule is a self-centered rule—and not unlike a traditional salesman who assumes his product is right for his prospect and approaches the sale without considering the prospect's needs. In sales—and relationships—one size (yours) does not fit all. With the Golden Rule, you run a greater risk of creating conflict than chemistry. After all, people have different needs, wants, and ways of doing things.

The alternative to the Golden Rule is much more productive. I call it the Platinum Rule: "Treat others the way they want to be treated." Ah hah! Quite a difference. The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others. The focus of relationships shifts from "this is what I want, so I'll give everyone the same thing" to "let me first understand what they want and then I'll give it to them."

Building rapport with people based on the Platinum Rule requires some thought and effort, but it is the most insightful, rewarding, and productive way to interact with people. And it is easy to learn.

Treating people according to their personality is not a new idea. Great philosophers throughout history have theorized about the differences in people. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates developed the concept of four temperaments—Melancholy, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Choleric. In 1923, Dr. Carl Jung wrote his seminal work, Psychological Types, in which he describes four behavioral types Intuiter, Thinker, Feeler, and Sensor. Anthropologists tell us that, even today, the model of four behavioral types is found in cultures throughout the world.

A Modern Model For Chemistry

The goal of The Platinum Rule is personal chemistry and productive relationships. You do not have to change your personality. You do not have to roll over and submit to others. You simply have to understand what drives people and recognize your options for dealing with them.

The cornerstone of The Platinum Rule—or any system for understanding and accommodating others—is adaptability, which is a combination of flexibility and versatility. Flexibility is simply the willingness to change your behaviors; it is an attitude of cooperation. Versatility is the ability to change your behaviors. Some people may be willing to change, but unable to pull it off because they are not natural actors. Other people may be great actors and can simulate any behavioral style, but be unwilling to do so. Of course, the best combination is willing and able. Hopefully you are one of them.

The Platinum Rule divides behavioral preferences into four basic styles: The Director, The Socializer, The Relater, and The Thinker. Everyone possesses qualities of each style to one degree or another however, everyone has a dominant style. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus only on the basic, dominant styles. As you read the descriptions of Directors, Socializers, Relaters, and Thinkers, see which style fits you best. Then think about people around you—at home, in the office—and determine their styles.


Directors are self-contained and direct. They are driven by the need to control and the need to achieve. Directors are goal-oriented go-getters who are most comfortable when they are in charge of people and situations. They want to accomplish many things—now—so they focus on no-nonsense approaches to bottom-line results. A Director's motto could be, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

Directors believe in expedience and are not afraid to bend the rules. They figure it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Directors accept challenges, take authority, and plunge head first into solving problems. In general, Directors are fast-paced and task-oriented. They work quickly and impressively by themselves and become impatient when delays arise. Directors have the ability to focus on one task to the exclusion of all else.

Directors are so focused that they can appear aloof. They are so driven that they forget to take the time to smell the roses. And when they do take the time to smell the roses, they do so competitively, as in "I smelled twelve roses today, how many did you smell?"

Directors are driven and dominating, which can cause them to be stubborn, impatient, and insensitive to the feelings, attitudes, and inadequacies of others. In fact, when under pressure, Directors can get rid of their anger by ranting, raving, or challenging others.

Directors tend to gravitate toward the following positions: the hard driving journalist, the stock-broker, the CEO, the independent consultant, and the drill sergeant!


Socializers are open and direct. They are friendly, enthusiastic "party-animals" who like to be where the action is. They thrive on the admiration, acknowledgment, and compliments that come with being in the lime-light. Socializers just want to have fun. They are more relationship-oriented than task-oriented. Socializers would rather "shmooze" with clients over lunch than work on a proposal in the office.

The Socializer's primary strengths are enthusiasm, charm, persuasiveness, and warmth. They are idea-people and dreamers who excel at getting others excited about their vision. They are eternal optimists with an abundance of charisma; qualities that help them influence people and build alliances to accomplish their goals. Socializers care less about winning or losing than how they look while playing the game.

As wonderful as Socializers may sound, they do have their weaknesses: impatience, an aversion to being alone, and a short attention span—they become bored easily. Socializers are risk-takers who base many of their decisions on intuition, which is not inherently bad. When given only a little data, however, Socializers tend to make sweeping generalizations. Some of them are, therefore, exaggerators. Socializers are not inclined to do their homework or check out information. They are more likely to assume someone else will do it.

Socializers tend to gravitate toward the following positions: sales (especially non technical products/services), public relations, advertising, show business, cruise ship social directors, hotel and restaurant personnel and glamorous, high-profile careers.


Thinkers are indirect and self-contained. They are analytical, systematic people who enjoy problem-solving. They are logical and persistent. Thinkers are detail-oriented, which makes them more concerned with content than style. They focus on the trees, whereas Directors and Socializers focus on the forest.

Thinkers are task-oriented people who like controlled environments. They are efficiency experts who enjoy perfecting processes and working toward tangible results.

Thinkers are always in control of their emotions (note the poker-faces of many Jeopardy! contestants) and may become uncomfortable around people who are less self-contained; i.e., emotional and bubbly like Socializers.

In the office, Thinkers like to work at a slow pace, which allows them to check and recheck their work. They tend to see the serious, complex side of situations. Their intelligence and natural wit, however, endow thinkers with unique quick and off-the-wall senses of humor.

Thinkers have high expectations of themselves and others and can be overly-critical. When disagreements arise, Thinkers quietly hold their ground, especially when they have a firm knowledge of the facts. Their tendency toward perfectionism—taken to an extreme—can cause "paralysis by over-analysis." Thinkers are slow and deliberate decision-makers. They do research, make comparisons, determine risks, calculate margins of error, and then take action. Thinkers become irritated by surprises and glitches, hence their cautious decision-making. Thinkers are also skeptical; they like to see promises in writing.

Thinkers strengths include an eye for detail and accuracy, dependability, independence, persistence, follow-through, and organization. They are good listeners and ask a lot of questions, however, they run the risk of missing the forest for the trees.

Thinkers tend to gravitate toward the following positions: engineers, statisticians, scientists, doctors, accountants, computer programmers, airline pilots, and tax attorneys.


Relaters are open and indirect. They are warm, supportive, and nurturing individuals. They are the most people-oriented of the four styles. Relaters are excellent listeners, devoted friends, and loyal employees. Their relaxed disposition makes them approachable and warm. They develop strong networks of people who are willing to be mutually supportive and reliable. Relaters are excellent team players.

Relaters are risk-aversive. In fact, a Relater my tolerate an unpleasant environment rather than risk a change. They like the status quo and become distressed when disruptions are severe enough. When Relaters are faced with change, they need to think it through, plan, and accept it into their world. Relaters—more than the other behavioral types—strive to maintain tranquillity and security in their lives. They need personal composure, stability and balance.

In the office, Relaters are courteous, friendly, and willing to share responsibilities. They are good planners, persistent workers, and good with follow-through. Relaters go along with other seven when they do not agree because they do not want to rock the boat. Thinkers need to let people know how they feel. Their lack of assertiveness can cause them to be hurt, especially when they are overly-sensitive or easily-bullied.

Relaters are also slow decision-makers for several reasons: 1) their need for security; 2) their need to avoid risk; 3) their desire to include others in the decision-making process.

The types of jobs that reflect a Relater's personality are; nurse, counselor, psychologist, social worker, teacher, minister, and human resource development. Relaters make exceptionally patient and supportive parents.

Adapting to Others

What should you do with this knowledge? First, determine if you are a Director, Socializer, Thinker, or Relater. That known, you now have a new appreciation for your preferences; for example, you might prefer relationships to tasks; you might prefer to act slowly rather than quickly; or you might prefer to tell people what you think and feel rather than keep it to yourself.

With your new insight will come a better understanding of people. That understanding is the key to The Platinum Rule. With flexibility and versatility, you will be able to slightly alter your behavior so that it is in alignment with the person with whom you are trying to build or maintain a rapport. The following guidelines will help you get on the same wavelength with the four different behavioral styles.

Recognizing And Adapting To Directors

What does a Director look like? At work, they often have large power-desks that look busy with lots of projects separated into separate piles. Their walls are adorned with diplomas, awards, and perhaps a large planning calendar. The seating arrangement implies a lack of contact, as in chairs being opposite the desk behind which is a big executive chair. Conversationally, you can spot Directors by their get-down-to-business and discuss the bottom-line approach. They are fast-paced and allow little or no time for small talk.

How should you treat Directors? Directors are very time-sensitive, so never waste their time. Be organized and prepared to work quickly. Get to the point and give them bottom-line information and options, with probabilities of success, if relevant. Give them written details to read at their leisure.

Directors are goal-oriented, so appeal to their sense of accomplishment. Stroke their egos by recognizing their ideas, and subtly reassure them of their power and prestige. Let Directors call the shots. If you disagree, argue with facts rather than feelings. When in groups, allow them to have their say because they are not the type who will take a back-seat to others.

With Directors, in general, be efficient and competent.

Recognizing And Adapting To Socializers

What does a Socializer look like? At work, they arrange their offices in open, airy, friendly ways; their offices are inviting to visitors. Their walls are covered with signs of recognition, including photographs with celebrities or high profile executives. Their choice of art or posters is upbeat and stimulating. They are outgoing, friendly, and will often come from behind their desks to sit with you to talk. Conversationally, you can spot Socializers by their focus on themselves, their enthusiasm, and their penchant for story-telling. It is always obvious that Socializers would rather chat than get down to business.

How should you treat Socializers? Socializers thrive on personal recognition, so pour it on when there is a reason. Support their ideas, goals, opinions, and dreams. Try not to argue with their pie-in-the-sky visions, get excited about them.

Socializers are social-butterflies, so be ready to flutter around with them. A strong presence, stimulating and entertaining conversation, jokes, and liveliness will win them over. They are people-oriented, so give them time to socialize. Avoid rushing into tasks.

Socializers are less reliable than others, so get all details and commitments in writing. Be clear and direct in your expectations of them. Give them incentives for performance, when possible, and check on them periodically to make sure they are on track.

With Socializers, in general, be interested in them.

Recognizing And Adapting To Thinkers

What does a Thinker look like? Their desks are structured, organized and neat. Their offices are decorated functionally rather than artistically, like Socializers, or powerfully, like Directors. Their walls may contain charts, computer print-outs, or other exhibits related to their projects. Thinkers keep their desks between themselves and their guests and their office seating implies formality and non contact. Conversationally, you can spot Thinkers easily by their slow pace and attention to accuracy. Ask a Thinker what time it is and s/he will tell you precisely. Ask a Director what time it is and you will be told the day of the week. Ask a Socializer what time it is and you will be told "Three days until the weekend."

Conversationally, Thinkers want to know and want to tell virtually every facet of a story. They speak relatively slowly and deliberately, pausing, if necessary—without self-consciousness—to search for the right word. Thinkers derive joy from speaking precisely and accurately.

How should you adapt to Thinkers? Thinkers are time-disciplined, so be sensitive to their time. They need details, so give them data. They are task-oriented, so don't expect to become their friend before doing business or working with them. That may develop later, but—unlike Socializers—it is not a prerequisite for Thinkers.

Support Thinkers in their organized, thoughtful approach to problems and tasks. Be systematic, logical, well-prepared, and exact with them. Give them time to make decisions and work on their own. In work groups, do not expect them to be leaders or outspoken contributors, but you can rely on them to conduct research, crunch numbers, and develop methods for the group.

Thinkers like to be complimented on their brain-power, so recognize their contributions in terms appropriate terms (efficiency, etc.). If appropriate, set guidelines and exact due dates for Thinkers. Allow them to talk in detail, as they are prone to do. If you ask a Thinker what time it is, s/he may explain how a clock works.

With Thinkers, in general, be thorough, well-prepared, detail-oriented, business-like, and patient.

Recognizing And Adapting To Relaters

What do Relaters look like? At work, their desks often hold family pictures and sentimental items. Their walls are decorated with conservative art, serene pictures, family or group photos, and supportive slogans. Their offices are warm and inviting and they prefer to not have a desk between them and their visitors. Conversationally, you can spot a Relater by their calm, relaxed, slow-paced, and supportive styles; they are excellent listeners. Their eye contact is steady and they show empathy by cocking their heads to one side and nodding in agreement.

How should you treat Relaters? They want warm and fuzzy relationships. You have to earn their trust before they will let you in. Support their feelings and show interest in every facet of their lives. Take things slow; they are relationship-oriented, but slow-paced. You should talk in terms of feelings, not facts, which is the opposite of your strategy for Thinkers.

Relaters don't want to ruffle feathers, so assure them that everyone around them will approve of their actions or decisions. Give them time to solicit the opinions of others. Never back a Relater into a corner. It is far more effective to apply warmth to get this chicken out of its egg than to crack the shell with a hammer.

With Relaters, in general, be non threatening and sincere.

Think back to a business or personal situation in which you did not hit it off with someone. That person was probably the opposite behavioral style as you. Can you remember what you lost by not having a relationship with that person? Now imagine what you would have gained if you had had some insight into that person's behavioral style and had adapted yourself to better conform to him or her. Would it have been worth the effort? You bet it would.

The Platinum Rule is a powerful life-skill that will serve you well in all your relationships: business, friends, family, spouse, and children. The possibilities made possible by improved relationships are infinite. Sometimes I think of John Lennon's song, "Imagine." One of the verses could be, "Imagine there's no conflict, it's easy if you try."


Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 13 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976. This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra's book, The Platinum Rule (Warner Books, 1996). If you would like more information about Dr. Alessandra's books, audio tapesets and video programs, or about Dr. Alessandra as a keynote speaker, call his office at 1-800-459-4515, write to P.O. Box 2767, La Jolla, CA 92038, fax (619) 459-0435, e-mail him at or visit his website at

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