We often speak of the golden rule: treat others as we wish to be treated. But have you heard of the platinum rule: treat others as they wish to be treated?
Both are hard, the second is harder. Understanding what others want can be challenging because we tend to conflate our own needs and wishes with that of the other (AKA projection).
Gary Chapman, in his book Five Love Languages, talks about showing our love through acts of service, affirming and loving words, touch, gifts, or time together. We each have a preference or bias, which is often subconscious, for the ways we perceive love. We also have a preference for how we tend to show our love to others.
Trouble can occur if our love languages are not in alignment with the love languages of the important others in our life.
Perhaps you’ve experienced such mismatches, where you may wish for time together, but your loved one may wish to receive gifts or loving words. It can be even more confusing if we show love in one manner, but prefer to receive love in a different manner; others may feel we’re sending mixed signals.
Given that none of us are mind-readers, what are we supposed to do?
These dynamics can feel hopeless and impossible except for… communication and self-awareness! By sharing what we each want and need to feel loved, we help our loved ones to be successful in showing their love to us.
But what if our loved one can’t communicate her love language preferences? Or if we’re having trouble understanding (such as for Earth)? What could we do?
Fortunately for us, we are all blessed with brains and the power of observation and deduction. We can watch, listen, smell, taste, and use touch to gather information on what is pleasing or disturbing to our loved one. We can experiment with different approaches and learn what our loved one needs.
Another sense available to us that is not often included includes empathy, i.e., using our heart to try to sense what the other is feeling.
We also have our intuition or gut feelings. You know – your spidey senses. We all have intuition but we often are conditioned not to trust it. Our intuition and feelings are most accurate if we are completely present (turn off our brains) when accessing heart and gut information, since they are often drowned out by the much louder brain.
Our most important loved one, Earth, is communicating with us about her needs, but not through the spoken word. We’ve been trying to mind-read, or maybe just ignore, Earth’s needs while she is ailing. We think we know what she needs physically (conservation, sustainability), but how many of us are trying to use the platinum rule to understand what she wants physically, but also emotionally and spiritually?
We don’t communicate with Earth the same way we do with other humans, so we have to use all 7 of our senses, while being as present as possible. We’re literally trying to understand her own unique language. And just as when we start to learn a new foreign (human) language, we get better the more we practice.
It’s less important to get it exactly right as it is to try to understand, then respond accordingly using the love language(s) we feel most inspired to use to show care for her. Earth wants us to love her with any of the five love languages! Show your care and affection for her in the way that comes most naturally to you. Between all of us, we can cover the bases she needs.
I know we tree-huggers can be critical of the way others want to show their love to Earth, but this tree-hugger feels that all approaches are welcomed by Earth. She wants us to notice, pay attention, and respond to her in affirming and loving ways. Gifts, touch, time together, words, and service are all gratefully welcomed.
And just like our human loved ones, when we take the time to nurture our bond, we can feel the bond deepen and enrich our spirits. Earth has unconditional love and affection for us, despite our suboptimal care of her, and we can tap into that too whenever we connect to offer her support.
Science shows that it’s truly better to give than receive; givers experience a greater psychological benefit than recipients. So give yourself a great big dose of oxytocin and use your favorite love language to show generosity to Earth. You’ll feel like the recipient of so much more.