We Teach People How To Treat Us

Whenever you’re having problems with other people, it’s time to ask yourself, “What am I putting out there?” While it’s true that you can’t control the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors of other people, you do have influence over how they treat you. Why? Because we teach people how to treat us.

Yep, that’s right. To see what I mean, look at the patterns of your interactions. Are you a people pleaser? How about a conflict avoider? Does it feel like you’re always the one getting left out? Do people speak to you with disrespect? Do people lie to you? Guess what? You have some control over that.

Let’s take a look at what I mean.

Do your friends and family whine, cry, threaten, and manipulate to get you to do things for them or give them stuff? If so, they aren’t getting their way because of who they are. They are getting their way because of who you are. You are telling them that you are a push-over and that you don’t have healthy boundaries. Your behavior is saying that the relationship, peace of mind, or something is more important to you than saying no. This can cost you money, lost sleep, self-esteem, lost time, inconvenience, anxiety, material goods, and all sorts of other things.

If you are a giver by nature and you can give with an open hand, that’s one thing. If your giving becomes a burden, it’s no longer generosity. You are hurting yourself.

Do your friends, family, and co-workers keep things from you? How about getting half truths? Or maybe they just lie outright? If so, it could be because you don’t respond well to the truth. If you punish people for the truth, get emotional or dramatic, refuse to hear it, or withdraw when you hear it, you’re not likely to get it. You have to decide what is more important to you: truth or illusion.

Relationships are always reciprocal. We all want what feels good and avoid what feels bad. No one wants to say something that will make another person feel bad, so telling the truth can often be a “lesser of two evils” choice. If the listener can hear it well, the giver is more likely to offer the truth.

That said, people who experience trauma orĀ abuse may have learned that it is not safe to tell the truth. They may lie regardless of your ability to hear the truth. Still, how you respond to lies will influence whether or not you are lied to again.

There are a million examples of how this can look. To find your work, pin point a pattern that recurs in your life that you’d like to change. Ask yourself, how am I teaching people how to treat me? What I am doing? What message am I sending? How I am rewarding undesirable behavior? What can I do to change this?

It’s not about assigning blame. It’s about empowering you to create a difference. You can change other people by changing yourself. You can also change what sort of people you attract into your life. Here are some suggestions on how to do that.

  • When you say no, mean no. You don’t have to explain or justify your choice. You don’t have to have a lengthy conversation about it. All you have to do is stick firmly with your no. Once you do that habitually, people will stop harassing you to change your mind.
  • When things are heated, calmly ask people for the behavior that you’d like to see. If something doesn’t change immediately, stop the contact. This means get off the phone, stop emailing, or walk away. This is not meant to be a threat or escalation, but a calming down. If it’s appropriate to say something like, “We can talk about this later,” you can do that. Just don’t carry on a conversation when the emotions are out of control.
  • If you encounter situations that are unfair or unbalanced in some way, calmly explain your point of view. Then ask for what you want. If you continue to feel left out or slighted, stop giving your energy to that person or thing. You can’t be treated poorly if you don’t participate.
  • If someone wants to attack or blame you for something, allow them to have their opinion. You don’t have to accept it, defend it, or even respond to it. This can teach them that people can agree to disagree. There doesn’t have to be a winner or fight to the death. Each person can have an opinion.

The person who is being disrespectful or unfair may not mean to hurt you. She may just be acting out of habit. So there is no need to approach this with hostility. It’s not an issue of other people being disrespectful. It’s an issue of you not stepping into your power. If you’ve ever seen a toddler push adults around, you know what I mean. Kids don’t have enough cunning to be that manipulative at that age. They are taking control because someone has to and they sense that no one else will do it.

People are connected. When you change, the other person must change. Sometimes this is easy. Other times you get pushback because we all like what is familiar and comfortable. So people will resist change. This means you may lose people. This is a natural part of growth. If you can accept that, you can be on your way to a healthier life now.

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