The sad reality of being an adult in the human world is at some point (and the point this occurs varies between people) we need to face the fact that we teach people how to treat us. Let me give you some examples from my life: Today I became acutely aware of a conversation that my husband had with another person about me. In that instant, I felt hugely betrayed and hurt. Not because of what the other person had said, but because my husband had explained that he was not confident in his ability to explain those same criticisms to me. At some point after I began processing this situation I became acutely aware of the part that I played in this situation. The reality is if I had been more graceful with other criticisms or complaints my husband had brought to me; he would have been comfortable in bringing this up to me. Let me change the context a little bit. Have you ever engaged in a negative conversation about a third party (who was not present during the conversation)? Why do you think that person felt comfortable bringing that conversation to your awareness? Most likely because you have taught them that you will either condone or participate in gossip.
The variables change frequently, but I could go on with examples all day. The bottom line is we teach people how to treat us. The way, in which we teach people how to treat us, is primarily reinforced by what we accept and don’t accept. Below is a list of ways to teach people to treat you more effectively.
- Role Model: This is the strongest mechanism by which people will gauge how they can interact with you. How do you treat yourself? If you are constantly putting yourself down, it will not be long before the people around you are doing the same thing. When you honor yourself, it sends a very clear message to most people to honor you as well.
- Boundaries: In certain relationships my boundaries are extremely high. That is, in part, because of how I have observed those people treating others. My life is built on grace and love, however at the end of the day I love myself enough to know what my boundaries are. Establishing boundaries in your life is a huge sign of respect for yourself.
- Law of Attraction: The best paraphrase of the law of attraction I have ever heard was what you think about (and subsequently reinforce) you call more of to you. If you are surrounded by people who do not treat you the way you desire to be treated, try shifting your focus. Try being grateful for the lessons these people are teaching you. In my experience, when I’ve done this the relationship shifts substantially.
- Saying No: When I first started saying no to people it created a physical uneasiness in my body. I was so confused and overwhelmed with how wrong this felt. My encouragement is to make it a practice of saying no. It’s absolutely empowering to understand two key components: No is a complete sentence, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation today. Just say no. Practice with it. Make it fun. It’s absolutely an under developed skill in most people.
- Environmental: If you surround yourself with people who are respectful and have significant amounts of boundaries in their own life, they are more likely to respond favorably when you begin to establish and assert your boundaries. Surround yourself with people who treat you well, who respect themselves, and subsequently respect themselves.
- Conflict: I encourage people to have enough respect for themselves and for others to own their part in every situation. As adults we very rarely have a situation where we have no part at all. Recognize your part quickly and communicate with truth and love.
- Nothing is Personal: When I began ascribing to the philosophy of not taking things personally my entire life began to shift. This is due, in part, because I was no longer controlled by the “What if’s” or the “if only’s”. I suspect that the most powerful portion of not taking things personal is that it emotionally lets me off the hook if someone else is having a difficult moment.
- Act as if: The philosophy behind this methodology is the fake it until you make it theory. I have put this practice to the test. Imagine if you pretended as if everyone in your life treated you with dignity and respect? Imagine if you made the commitment to act like that for 14 days. My experience is that in about half the time you would notice a substantial shift in those relationships.
I’m a firm believer in being pro-active in every situation in my life, and relationships are no different. Put these skills into practice and then pay attention to how different your life becomes in a very short amount of time.
JennBovee, LCSW is a spiritual life coach and psychotherapist. Jenn offers in person and distance sessions. Learn more about Jenn here: www.JennBoveeLCSW.com