I was sceptical about a social experiment a friend of mine had told me about. So, I decided to try it myself.
The experiment consists in treating people exactly the same way they treat you, for example:
When someone asks you a question, you answer using exactly the same attitude, tone of voice, volume level and body language.
Despite the fact I was very sceptical at the beginning, after a few tries the results baffled me.
I didn’t have to gather a big sample to learn a very interesting fact of human nature.
My first victim, sorry I mean, my first subject of study was another friend of mine who asked me the time, he was in a hurry and he thought he was getting late for an appointment.
Due to his nervousness, he asked me in a very impatient tone for the time. Mimicking his attitude, I told him the time and added that he was still on time to get there safely.
He looked at me with a surprised look in his face and told me that I didn’t have to be so upset about his question.
I explained to him that I was answering exactly in the same manner he had asked me the question. Of course, he told me I was lying.
My next subject was an unknown person who asked me on the street, for the location of a clinic. Once again mimicking her tone of voice, volume and body language while answering her question, she got very upset about my lack of manners, and when I told her about the experiment she felt offended and said I was overreacting.
On a different occasion, I saw a woman talking to an employee in a big store, she was not talking to me, but I decided to answer her question with the same attitude and language she was using with the employee, and this time I got the same result once more. When I proceeded to explain her that all I was doing was imitating her behaviour, she was very offended because she said that she would “never treat anyone like that.”
Of course, I did not get only negative results during the experiment, when I imitated the good manners and joys of the others, I received more of the same in return.
What I consider to be the most interesting result of these mini experiment is that most people did not realise how they were treating me and/or other people, and that they did not consider it to be inappropriate.
But when they receive the same treatment, they felt they had been totally mistreated and felt very offended.
Are you treating people the way you want to be treated? Are you conscious of your attitude towards others? Or are you still thinking that you are the victim of the rudeness of the rest of the world?
I am still having some fun with this experiment from time to time, but the lesson that it left me it’s invaluable.
So, probably this is a good time to re-evaluate the Golden Rule:
Do to others as you would have them do unto you.