Teaching Others How to Treat You
Updated: Jul 6, 2018
Have you ever wondered to yourself, "Why do people treat me this way?", or more specifically, "Why does he/she always do that to me?". Well, if you have, you are in good company. Most of us at one time or another feel like we are constantly running into the same problem with the same person or group of people. What we often don't realize, however, is that we are much more involved in how people treat us than we think. The good news is that you actually have some control over this. The bad news is that when we become afraid to put up firm boundaries, or say what we need to say, we are missing an opportunity to "train" others on how to treat us. Yes, I wrote train, which sounds a bit extreme, but if you think of what training is - the reinforcement of a habit, positive or negative- then it actually kinda makes sense, right? Every encounter is an opportunity.
So! Let's say you just smile and laugh every time your friend Larry makes fun of you for having a cat, even though it really hurts you. The signal you are giving out is one of ease....Larry doesn't think he is hurting your feelings. Actually, he may even feel like it is an inside joke between the two of you. But, after a while, you start feeling like Larry is an insensitive jerk who doesn't give a rip about your feelings. And eventually, you start hanging out with him less and less, and perhaps you even end up loosing his friendship all together. And poor Larry is sitting over there going "What the bleep happened? I thought we were buddies?" because to him this change in your relationship came out of nowhere. This is a very simplified example, but you get the point, right? If you had found a way to express to Larry that his teasing actually hurt your feelings, you would have given him the opportunity to change how he behaved towards you. The feelings, emotions, reactions and boundaries that we put out are the road maps for others on how to treat us.
SOOO many of you say to me, "But I hate confrontation! I just find it easier to go along with it and keep my mouth shut." I have a little secret for you. No one likes confrontation. No one! But there are ways to put up boundaries without making it a big deal, just as there are ways to tell people that you don't like something without making it an overly big deal. If you continue to just grin and bear it in order to avoid making things momentarily uncomfortable, you are going to have a heap of short and unhealthy relationships. But don't worry, I got your back!
Here are a few quick tips on setting up boundaries and telling people that something has upset you.
- Keep it simple. When telling someone that they hurt or upset you, stick to how it made you feel and why you don't like it. And that's it.
- Keep it present. Do NOT bring up other times or other subjects. Just state why you were hurt in this instance (even if there are more instances from the past- that time has come and gone).
- Use "I" statements. This is an oldie but a goodie. Stick to how YOU felt, not what you feel they were doing, how they were acting or what they did wrong.
- Offer a solution. Some topics come up over and over again. In this case, make a suggestion of what they CAN say that you don't find hurtful. And remember to keep the other person's feeling in mind when doing this.
- Don't let the opportunity pass. The longer you wait to say something, the harder it becomes to bring it up.
- Try, try again. For many of us, this is a muscle that needs to be built up. You may not set healthy boundaries or tell someone how they hurt you right away. It may take time, it may get a little messy, but keep focused and keep positive. You will get it eventually.
- And please! Be nice! You do not have to be brutal to make a point. Meanness will attract meanness.
- Say thank you. When all is said and done, thank the person for hearing you and for taking your feelings into consideration.
Setting healthy boundaries and speaking up for yourself can be harder for some than others, but I really encourage you to give it a try. And, as always, please seek help if you need it! That's what friends, mentors, coaches and counselors are there for, right?
You cannot control people's reactions or what they think about you, but you can teach the people in your life how to treat you. It's actually a pretty simple concept when you think about it. But, as many of us know, it is often the most basic concepts that are the hardest to change. So stay strong, stay positive and remember that this is YOUR life, so make it the best.
With love and light,