For many years I thought of the Golden Rule as a pretty decent plank in a solid platform for behavior. During an argument with a girlfriend about the way we interacted with each other I tried to explain the basic nature of my behavior with one of the Rule's carious incarnations:
"Treat others as you would have them treat you."
She cocked an eyebrow and retorted with:
"Other people don't want to be treated like you want to be treated; they want to be treated like they want to be treated."
The surety that she had cut-and-pasted that little gem from some relationship guru's manual didn't prevent me from being silenced and stunned and then conceding the point to her. For one moment in the totality of our relationship, she had said something while discussing our situation that wasn't simple sophistry or blathering idiocy. She had my attention - but not for long. You see, while her point was valid, she wasn't talkin' the way she was walkin'. She never once really seemed to care about how I wanted to be treated. So my train of thought quickly derailed from the topic at hand and moved on to this new conundrum. Was the Golden Rule flawed? How could I have missed this?
How do other people know how you want to be treated? Well, you could advertise your desire by treating newcomers as you would have them treat you and hope they get the hint.
How do you know how other people want to be treated? A good mixture of listening to what they say and observing how they treat you would be a good place to start.
Once you know how another person wants to be treated it is probably no longer appropriate to treat them the way you want to be treated if their treatment preference is different that your preference and their preference is acceptable to you.
For God's sake, man, call an editor, STAT!! This sentence is hemorrhaging!!
Ummm, what I meant to say was that using the Golden Rule as a template for inter-personal relationships is peachy keen as a default beginning. It isn't an autopilot, and I suggest you disengage it, listen and think, once you get into interesting territory.