You Teach People How to Treat You
by Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
So often we hear people ask the question, "Why does he/she/they treat me/us so badly?" The honest answer, in most cases, is "Because you let him, her or they!"
If that seems too simple an answer, think of it this way. You make a date for lunch with someone new. They arrive twenty minutes late, citing traffic, office hold ups, the weather, their car or their kids. Of course, things do happen to detain even the best intentioned person. You accept the apology and have a lovely lunch. The next time you have lunch with this person, they are thirty minutes late. Aha, there may be a pattern developing. What do you do?
Unless you do not mind this behavior, you then have the opportunity to teach that person how to treat you. Good communication skills come into play. You can say something like, "One of the things I've found works for me is to be honest with people. I really enjoy your company and would like to continue meeting for lunch. I know things come up at the last minute and sometimes traffic can be horrendous. I'd like us to agree that either of us can leave if the other is more than fifteen minutes late? Would that be all right with you?" This clearly communicates what you need and want without ascribing blame. It builds relationship when you make clear agreements with people. Would it be all right with you if an employee came to work consistenly one-half hour late? No, there is an agreement about the starting time, isn't there? The same is true of our own time.
One of my favorite quotes comes from John Powell. In his book, The Secret of Staying in Love, he wrote that "the genius of good communication is to be totally kind and totally honest at the same time." I repeat this quote often to remind myself how to approach teaching people how to treat me. If I do not tell the truth about what works for me, I cannot expect another person to honor and respect it. Learning to teach people how to treat us takes practice.
You may still have folks who have been in your life for a long time who take advantage of you, treat you poorly, or are angry, abusive or violent. A habit has been established and they may like it a lot! Consider telling them the truth about how their behavior affects you and what changes would make the relationship feel more respectful and caring for you. Be both honest and kind. Be prepared to have to repeat this information consistently over time. It is sometimes "inconvenient" for these folks to remember that you have now stated your preferences. They may not want to change. Holding these boundaries also requires attention on your part. Once you have asked for the change, you must insist on it or consider giving up the relationship. Both of these tasks take positive self-esteem and self-confidence.
Relationships worth having are mutually respectful and responsive. Think about how you might like to apply these thoughts in your daily life.
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, a noted international speaker and author, is the founder of the Optimize! Institute, and Your Spiritual Home, a worldwide center for Practical Spirituality & Everyday Myth. Her mission is "To uplift, inspire and motivate people worldwide to find joy, peace and success on their own terms". She is the author of Optimize Your Day: Practical Wisdom for Optimal Living and Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work, as well as many other books and audio programs.
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD may be contacted at http://www.OptimizeInstitute.com or firstname.lastname@example.org