What do all of these people have in common: Your mother, father, siblings, partner or spouse, child(ren), teachers, bosses, friends, classmates, colleagues, customers, associates, doctors, therapists? The tie that binds is their relationship with you.
From the moment of your birth until the moment you leave this world, relationships will greatly influence the way you experience life. And if you don’t teach people how to treat you, that influence will be the source of great disappointment and grief. Maybe you’ve already figured that out the hard way.
Have you ever been deceived by a lover? Cheated by a business partner? Bullied by a peer? Manipulated by a family member? Disregarded by a doctor? Harassed by a boss? I’m sure some of this rings a bell.
No matter what unique situations you’ve faced in the past or may face in the future, these 6 techniques are some of the most effective ways to get the treatment that you deserve and to handle (or avoid) toxic relationships.
Teach People How to Treat You
1. Set healthy boundaries. The most obvious way to teach others how to treat you is to make your physical and emotional boundaries clear. Decide for yourself what is and what is not okay with you. In every relationship, define your role, the level of closeness or intimacy, any limitations and the degree of authority or power imbalance (if any).
Also, know who is responsible for what, where you end and the other person begins. You can’t teach people how to treat you unless you first realize and project how you expect to be treated. Never underestimate the importance of your awareness and enforcement of these healthy boundaries.
2. Show by example. Whether consciously or unconsciously, people observe the way you treat others as a reflection of what you want in return. Keep this in mind during all of your interactions, remembering that you may get back whatever you put out.
For example, you’ll have a tough time convincing people to politely listen to what you have to say if you usually show yourself to be a poor listener. Rather than looking like a hypocrite, show people that you’re willing to give the same courtesies that you expect to receive.
3. Express appreciation. There is a lot that you can do to stand up for yourself when others mistreat you, but none are more effective than reinforcing the positive. In most cases, telling a person, “I feel angry when you don’t keep your word” doesn’t garner the same powerful effect as expressing gratitude at times when the same person gives you every reason to be grateful.
People love to feel valued and appreciated, and they often respond with more praiseworthy behavior. Make it a point to verbalize and show your gratitude. Be generous with compliments and tokens of appreciation when they are deserved. The power of appreciation is indescribable, so don’t underestimate it.
4. Be assertive. Assuming that people know how to treat you is a big mistake. You are an individual, which means that you are someone unique and different from everyone else. If you don’t speak up when you feel that you’re being mistreated, it’s plausible for others to assume that their behavior is acceptable to you. Even if you feel that a person should know how to treat you by default, have the courage to do your part.
Make your thoughts, feelings and expectations clear; so that there is no misunderstanding. In most cases, this is enough to teach people that you won’t just accept whatever they dish out.
5. Prioritize self-care. When it comes to teaching people how to treat you, the lessons must start within. People will often make assumptions about your expectations by noticing the way you treat yourself. If you generally look worn out, sloppy, deprived and pitiable; people may treat you in the same way that you appear to treat yourself. To send a better message to others, make self-care one of the most important aspects of your life.
Not sure how to tackle self-care? Instead of listening to your inner critic, choose to think in ways that lead to positive feelings and beliefs. Instead of harming your body with a poor lifestyle, treat yourself to healthy food, water, exercise, and safe fun. The more you seem to treasure yourself and demand the best for yourself, the more you’ll attract others who see and respect your value.
6. Choose the right people. There comes a time in all of our lives when we find ourselves faced with those who simply don’t care about respecting and honoring others. There is nothing that you can do to teach these people how to treat you, but you can make sure that the overwhelming majority of your relationships do not fall into this category. Also, you can decide to rid yourself of toxic relationships, or to at least put some distance in between you and those who mistreat you.
This is sometimes easier said than done, but difficult is not the same as impossible. Even if the toxic relationship is with your parent, sibling, spouse or boss; you are not without choices. Always remember that putting up with perpetual mistreatment is the complete opposite of self-care. Do whatever it takes to take care of you.
Although every case is different, it’s pretty safe to say that relationships present some of life’s greatest joys and challenges. In order to make the best of our lives, it is important to teach others how to treat us. The alternative is to suffer with poor quality relationships, which really isn’t much of an alternative at all.
What do you think? How do you handle toxic relationships? Do you agree that it’s your job to teach people how to treat you? Do you find it difficult to “take care of yourself” in relationships?
Photo credit: Paula Bailey
Related Self Improvement Blog Posts
- 14 Ways to Get the Respect & Admiration You Deserve
- Can Setting Healthy Boundaries Improve Your Relationships?