We often hear the advice that it’s essential to teach people how to treat us, but what does this mean, exactly?
Teaching people how to treat us is a process that involves setting boundaries which is really about knowing what you need and being able to communicate it adequately to others.
So, how can you teach others what you will and will not tolerate? Are you open to suggestions? Here they are:
1. Start with yourself. In teaching people how to treat you, don’t start with them. The beliefs you hold about who you are and how you treat yourself set the standard for the way others treat you. People can quickly learn how to treat you based on the behaviors you accept from them
2. Practice self-awareness. Start noticing how you treat yourself, what you value, what you want, and what you need? You can’t control what other people do, but you can create a different response or reaction in other people if you change how you treat yourself.
3. Know what you can and cannot tolerate. You may tolerate taking a break when things get heated, but you may not tolerate yelling during a conversation. You may tolerate honesty of feelings but you may not tolerate name-calling. It’s up to you.
4. Communicate your needs clearly and kindly. When you criticize, yell, or give people the silent or cold treatment, not only is this ineffective, but it damages the relationship. Speak clearly and kindly, but clarity doesn’t come when you, yourself, don’t know what it is you want to communicate about.
Example: Rather than scream, ‘you never listen to me‘ it may be more helpful to say, ‘I feel alone right now, and I would be very grateful if I could have your undivided attention for 5 minutes’.
In other words, we show people how to treat us when we can identify a specific need and express what that need is in a clear, understandable way. But if we use threats, pouting, or desperation, people don’t learn how we want to be treated. The message gets buried within the chaos and doesn’t get across to the other person.
5. Model how you’d like to be treated. Be the person you want others to be. In other words, treat others the way you want them to treat you. If you want your kids or your friends to be kind to you, be kind to them. If you want others to listen to what you have to say, pay attention when they’re saying something. Focus your full, undivided attention on the person, ask questions to clarify, validate them, and be empathetic.
6. Reinforce the behaviors you like. When someone makes an effort to change their behavior towards you, don’t forget to express appreciation.
For example, you may say, ‘I appreciate you listening to me talk about my stressful day at work yesterday.’
You can reinforce someone’s behavior at the time, a few minutes later, a couple of hours later, or even the next day. There’s no rule on how many times you can reinforce positive behavior.
7. Have realistic expectations. Unfortunately, you can’t always teach people how to treat you in a day, a week, or a month. Just like learning a new skill, it can take weeks or even months to get someone to treat you the way you want to be treated. So remember to practice and be patient with yourself and another person.