Tiny Wisdom: Treat People How They Want to Be Treated

“If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better.” ~Lyndon Johnson

A while back, I told a friend that I try to follow the old adage “Treat people how you wanted to be treated.” He responded that he tries to treat people how they want to be treated. This really got me thinking.

I’ve always tried to gauge people’s needs by relating to them—by seeing myself in them, and giving them what I would want if I were in their shoes.

It never occurred to me consider how I differ from them, and how their wants may differ, as well.

This friend of mine, he values connection and support, just like everyone else, but he’s not someone who likes to talk about his problems at length. In fact, he prefers to get things off his chest and then move on, instead of dwelling on things that bother him.

A mutual friend of ours enjoys dissecting a problem from every angle. If he treated her how he likes to be treated, he may try to help her let go and move on quickly, as that’s how he does things.

But he doesn’t treat her that way. Instead, he simply listens until she’s done talking, because he understands that she appreciates that.

He understands that what works for him isn’t necessarily what works for everyone; and that there is no right or wrong when it comes to the support we want from other people.

What a beautiful way to be there for someone—to try to ascertain what they value in a friendship, and then provide it, without question or judgment.

I’m not suggesting we enable people when they’re compromising their emotional well being, or facilitate codependent relationships by giving in to unhealthy requests.

I’m suggesting we can make the world a better place by meeting people where they are and instead of assuming that’s where we are.

It’s recognizing when someone wants space, even if you’d prefer to be surrounded by people in a similar situation.

It’s realizing when someone wants vocal appreciation, even if you’d feel uncomfortable with that kind of attention.

It’s moving beyond empathy to understanding, and building stronger relationships in the process.

We are so similar, and yet so different. Sometimes connection is seeing ourselves in each other. Sometimes it’s stepping outside ourselves, and honoring what we see.

Photo by Alex [Fino] LA

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Confused!

    Lori, this concept is something new to me! Hmm lots to think…but what happened to “friendship is a two way street, you come half and I come half”! Also “be yourself”!
    By treating others how they want dont we slowly become doormats?!

  • Well said, Lori. I have always tried to live by the golden rule of treating others as I would want to be treated. Your post has given me a lot to think about. You are right, how can I treat them as though I would want to be treated given that they are an entirely different being?


  • I like this very much and it’s a good one to contemplate. It made me think about presents – how some people get you the present they would like to have themselves and others make the effort to get you something you would like. It is much harder to do the second as it involves stepping into someone elses shoes, or trying to. But perhaps the more we do that, the more we exercise our empathy muscle and the easier it gets.

    Kate x

  • Well stated, Lori. I entirely agree with you. And I think you’ll agree with me that although we are all different, what we ALL want and need is SUPPORT. Support comes in different flavors and means of delivery, as you pointed out. And looking OUT, instead of IN, can be applied to the work place as well, don’t you think?

    So many of us are focused on trying to convince our bosses that WE are worthy, when in fact, what most managers seek, consciously or not, is validation that THEY are worthy.

    If we do our best to support and be loyal to the people we work for, assuming they are decent people, generally we will be rewarded with their trust.


    There are always exceptions and sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we cannot find a mutual connection point with the people we work with. Our universes are just too far apart.

    That recently happened to me. I did everything I was supposed to do, and yet I was fired. I was devastated, for weeks. But…I moved on.

    I must remind myself that there are always new and productive working relationships waiting for me, as there are new friendships to be found and nurtured.

    Don’t give up, right Lori? We must keep living by our principles.


  • Laura

    Kate, your comparsion was interesting. I remember once my husband wanted to get me FISHING WADERS for a present. hmmmm….

    I thought it through, and realized he just liked spending time with me, and also enjoyed fishing, and thought it would make me more comfortable. Well, I didn’t get the waders, but I understood the thoughtful idea behind it. It always comes down to that, the thought behind something.


  • Sarah

    This post is so meaningful and beautiful! Thank you! It reminds me of when I became aware of dealing with my dog (years ago) … How I had to learn “his language”.  How language can be a barrier is similar.  Every human has a language of his/her own and learning how to communicate with people does not work as a generalization; each person speaks a different language.  Thank you for the though provoking idea in this blog … Simply fabulous!!! ♥


    Hi Lori,

    This is a great concept. We do forget that not everybody in the world sees it
    the same way we do. What we think we might like in a situation may not be what
    the other person needs. I know I have been guilty of this on many occasions.

    If we really take the time to get to know people, we will learn what they need.
    And that takes work and conscious effort. Talking for myself, treating others
    as I would like to be treated is a bit lazy when I think about it. I now
    understand how it has got me into trouble, even though my intentions were good

    A penny dropping post.

  • I do see what you’re saying, because at some point there’s a compromise, but I think the point is to acknowledge that everyone has their own needs and we shouldn’t assume what works for us is what will work for everyone. 🙂 I don’t think you give up anything of yourself when you acknowledge how someone else would like to be treated.  There’s a difference between letting them do whatever they want and treating them as they want to be treated!

  • I love this post, and this is one of the main reasons I am going to be a therapist, because I feel I am able to meet other people where they are.  It’s probably because others have made so many assumptions about me through my life, but I never assume that anyone I meet will want what I want, feel comforted by what comforts me etc.  I always ask what someone else needs, and listen, and do my best to accomodate them.  I try to be completely open to every person I encounter until I specifically know what their needs/wants are. 

    Thank you so much for this piece, Lori!  Loved it. 🙂

  • Another blog I follow did a post on this during the holidays last year, and I thought it was interesting too… so many people try to get you the gift they think you should have (hinting about what they want to change about you), or one they want for themselves… interesting stuff! 

  • Hi there!

    I just saw Alannah’s response, and my thoughts are similar. I agree friendship is a two-way street. Ideally, we would consider what our friends want and need, and they would do the same for us. In this way, we’re *both* trying to understand each other and react accordingly. 

    I’m wondering if perhaps this sentence confused you: 

    I’m suggesting we can make the world a better place by meeting people where they are and instead of assuming that’s where we are.

    By this I meant that we can consider what people need instead of assuming our needs are the same–not that we should give up what we need for them.

    I hope this helps clarify my post somewhat!


  • Thanks Shannon! I came to that same “hmmmm” not too long ago, and it definitely gave me something to think about!

  • That’s a great point! I know people who shop in both ways–some give me clothes/jewelry that fit in with their style, and others look for items they imagine I would buy. It’s always nice to feel someone “gets” you, and I think that’s what it really comes down to!

  • That’s an interesting point about managers. It’s been a while since I had a manager or worked in an office environment, but I think understanding where other people are coming from is always a smart practice!

  • You’re most welcome! I love what you wrote, about how we all have our own languages. I never really considered that before, but it’s so true! We all communicate in our own unique ways.

  • You’re most welcome. It sounds like you’re going to be a wonderful therapist Alannah. =)

  • I know what you mean! I’ve had misguided but positive intentions before as well. We’re all works in progress. =)

  • Confused (not anymore)

    Thanks for writing in detail Lori! I kind of got the point now…
    “without compromising much, giving people what they want”! I am particularly using the word “giving” because for me it is more genuine and honest than “treating”

  • jt

    Beautiful! 🙂

  • Confused

    Your last line made lot of sense! Thanks A.Rose!

  • That is such a nice thing for you to say – thanks so much, Lori!  I appreciate that so much. 🙂

  • Thank you!

  • YL

    Hi, this is a fresh concept to me but i feel it’s almost impossible to know how the other person wants to be treated, no matter how well you know that person. Isn’t it?

  • I understand your thoughts on this. I think the best we can do is try to understand people, and then act on what we see. We may not provide exactly what someone wants, but we can make an effort. I know I personally appreciate that!

  • Simona Celarova

    Good point! I heard that even that is sometimes not enough to do. Suprisingly. In some cases people are used to being treated certain way because they believe it is what they “deserve” – and it does not have to be the nicest way sometimes. We can’t go wrong by sincere asking. No judgements, no expectations, no worries. 😉 Give it a chance for an open heart. 

  • Simona Celarova

    Something bigger takes place sometimes… I wish so that this change brings good fruits 😉

  • Bluventures

    WOW!!! This is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time. I know I’ve heard it somewhere in my distant past but it really hit me at this point in my life. I’m used to having my space, needing it, and living alone for the most part. Now due to having cancer and other health issues that have gone along with it and not being able to work, I am now living with my family in a house that consists of four adults, two just turn teens, and three babies. Luckily it’s a big house but still not big enough for the space and peace-n-quiet that I thrive on. I am very thankful for living here and my family and love them dearly.

    What you have written though has just lit up the light bulb in my head of what everyone is trying to learn about each other. Personal boundaries are very important and we definitely have a vast variety of them here.

    Thank you so much. Awesome article!


  • Bluventures

    I agree. I also think that sometimes we might need to actually speak up and ask the other person if a situation calls for it. After all we can’t really get to know if we don’t truly communicate.

    Just a thought 🙂


  • What you wrote about thinking we “deserve” to be treated poorly really struck a nerve with me. I felt that way in college, and I even wrote a sad, self-critical poem titled “What I Deserve.” My heart goes out to anyone who feels that way about themselves. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you deserve to hurt.

  • You’re most welcome Jacquellyn. It sounds like you’re in a full house! That’s wonderful your family is there for you. =)

  • lynn fux

    This is an excellent example of  a practicing Buddhist’s idea of sincere compassion. LISTEN ALWAYS LISTEN!!!! Wonderful article,Thanks Lori

  • You’re most welcome Lynn! Thanks for reading =)

  • ah ha moment right there. 

  • Simona Celarova

    Oh, yeah. 
    My lovely. 😉

  • Marcius E. Chester

    I see that all people don’t want to be treat the same way that I want to be treated. It’s just like women who wants a guy to treat them like sh** rather then a guy who treats them with respect. People now days can’t see the forest through the trees until they are up and close. But by then its way to late. Generations from the past have more knowledge then what’s going on now. Just look around and the next time you visit you’re grandparents at them about this subject.

  • Nancy Redenius

    I love this concept.
    I used to live by the golden rule, until I became a Resident Advisor at my university and realized that sometimes the golden rule doesn’t cut it. “I wouldn’t mind if my roommate played music while I was studying” is not an excuse for playing music while your roommate studies, because sometimes other people need more from you than you would need, and we need to learn to respect that.
    I loved your article because you made me realize that sometimes it doesn’t have to be that someone needs “more” than you do, they just need something different, and that may even mean “less” (like just needing someone to listen without trying to dissect the problem).
    I’ve heard “treat others as they would like to be treated” called the Platinum Rule, and this is the rule I aspire to uphold now.

  • Thanks so much, Nancy. Perfect example. When you really think about it, it makes so much sense. Relationships thrive when we consider what the other person needs. I actually never heard the name of this rule, but I like it. I’ve always preferred platinum to gold. =)

  • John

    You are writing a great article, and I wish to share a problem with you. What if I am going to have to relate continually with someone who wants to be treated like a ‘royalty’? Do I have to give in to his/her every demands? Thanks beforehand.

  • It sounds to me like this person has unreasonable expectations. I think perhaps a good question to ask yourself is: Do you need to treat yourself poorly in order to treat this person as they want to be treated? If so, that’s a red flag!

  • guest

    True.. in relationships, one must try to recognize what the other needs, and strive to treat them how they want to be treated. That is what I would want for myself as well, I.e., someone understanding my needs and treating me the way I want to be treated. So I find out what’s important to my husband and treat him the way he wants to be treated, because I’d want him to do the same for me, that is, find out what’s important to me and treat me how I want to be treated. Now, doesn’t that come back to the Golden Rule of treating others how you want to treated?