According to Dr. Phil, "We teach people how to treat us." Let that sink in for a moment. Rephrase it and repeat it a couple times to yourself. "I teach people how to treat me." Maybe you're thinking, my life isn't perfect and maybe once in a while an argument gets heated, but I'm doing alright.
But think for a moment about how people really do treat you. How does your spouse or significant other talk to you or about you? Do you feel supported and like you are both on the same team? What about your dad? Your ex? Do you walk on eggshells or tip toe around certain issues to avoid an argument? Think about nicknames people use for you, is there one you don't really like but you just let it go?
Are there things that any of them say that are a little on the edge of being rude? How do you react when this happens? Do you stop it, leave the room as if you didn't hear it, or just keep quiet? They may call you "big mama" referring to your extra weight but they frame it as "an inside joke". Do you laugh with them? Or do you ask them not to use that reference for you again?
What about your children? How do they talk to you? How do they behave toward you? Do they yell at you, try to hit you, push, ignore you, or kick at you when they don't get their way? Do you chalk this up to "just a tantrum" or do you discipline them for it? Do they show appreciation or just demand or expect you to cook, clean, and drive them to/from activities?
Think about other people in your life such as co-workers, friends, and relatives. Maybe they joke about "you and your book smarts", refer to your "hillbilly" accent, comment that you "run or throw like a girl", or ask "when are you going to just get a real job?" How do you respond? Does it feel like your co-workers or your boss value your contributions? Have you been corrected or yelled at by a boss or co-worker in front of other employees or customers?
As you think about how each of these types of people treat you, try to identify any patterns between them. For example, do both your husband and your in-laws make fun of the type of job that you have? Is there a running joke with your in-laws and your friends about your house being featured on the next TV episode of Hoarders or How Clean is your House?
Or maybe you have a friend or several friends that seem to imply that being a stay at home mom is not important or the fact that you work full-time and have your kids in daycare is not right. Maybe it's a co-worker who rolls their eyes every time you get a phone call from your kids who are at home.
Does this mean you are to blame for people treating you badly? Absolutely not. You are only responsible for what you knew when you knew it. And each person is ultimately responsible for their own behavior. But the good news is that now that you do know, you absolutely can teach most people how to treat you better!
The way that you teach people how to respect you or in some cases teach people how to treat you better is by first creating a very clear picture for yourself about what kind of behavior or treatment you will accept, how you express this to others, and how you respond if the poor treatment continues.
In order to set clear limits about how others treat you, it's important for you to first commit to some firm guidelines about how YOU treat yourself and others. The better you get at taking care of yourself, the harder it will be for you to tolerate disrespect from others. You also have to treat others well. The old adage, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" should be your new mantra.
We teach people how to treat us, yes. But that doesn't mean that everyone who behaves badly toward us is an evil person. They may not even be aware of how their treatment makes you feel. And you definitely contribute to that if you don't let them know how their behavior impacts you. They don't know what they don't know either. And if they do know they are hurting you, all the more reason for you to put a stop to it now.
So now that you know you can teach people to treat you better, the next step is to learn more about how to set firm boundaries and how to express yourself in an assertive way. With a little practice, you will be able to send a clear message to folks that you respect yourself and won't allow anyone to violate that in the way they treat you. There are several ways you can learn to set boundaries and stand up for yourself including self-help books, community education classes, or by getting the help of a life coach who specializes in this area. Contact us today!