We teach others how to treat us. Like it or not, it is the truth.
This truth, this code, has been one of life’s hardest lessons for me to learn. It wasn’t until recently that I started to truly grasp the importance of how we give people permission to do the right things or the wrong things in our lives. I had to start looking at me. And today, I am asking you to start looking at you.
I once overheard someone say, “Don’t treat people how you want to be treated. Treat them as they want to be treated.” People really do teach us how they want to be treated — for better or worse.
Bottom line: You and I are responsible for choosing those to whom we give access to our lives. Whether or not we want to admit it, we give people the ability to help us or to hurt us. We are accountable for what we show and teach other people about us.
When we “teach” someone how to treat us, we give them cues, instructions about who we are, what we like, and what we expect. When this code is out of kilter, we don’t give people the right cues. This puts us in the untenable position of accepting whatever is thrown our way and settling for what we get.
What You Do Tells Others How to Treat You
If you are always running yourself ragged and speaking poorly about yourself, others will run you ragged and speak poorly about you, too. If you are a pessimist who never sees the good in life, people will not want to be around you. If you push good people away and punish them for the wrongs others have done to you, good people will stop coming your way.
If you always have to be the hero (or shero) in the story, if you act as if you wear a big S on your chest and that you can leap tall buildings in a single bound, then people will treat you like Superwoman. And they will not be there when you need to be rescued.
We set ourselves up for failure. We take on these impossible roles, and we teach people that we have no boundaries. We have to stop.
Here’s the thing, all change starts with you and with me. I had to begin to take ownership of who I was surrounding myself with and why. I had to look at some of my most intimate relationships and make hard decisions (even within my immediate family) about who was toxic and who needed to go.
I am becoming very protective of my sacred space, which Dr. Maya Angelou taught us was so important. I don’t want negative energy in my space. Life is just too short. My point: the journey to teaching people how to treat us in the ways we most desire and most need begins within.
How to Teach People to Treat You Well
If you find yourself unhappy with how you are being treated, if you feel you are always being taken for granted, used, or even abused by people in your life, it’s time for you to do a self-check.
Here are strategies that will help you attract positive, loving, stable people. If you incorporate them into your life, you will begin to experience a freedom and self-confidence you never knew existed.
1. Set boundaries. If you don’t have healthy boundaries, if you don’t rest, if you don’t take care of yourself, people will take advantage of you. You have to let people know that you honour yourself and that those who cause drama or seek to drain you will be removed quickly.
2. Understand yourself. What matters to you? Loyalty, integrity, reciprocity, laughter? Whatever it is, find that in other people. Attract like-minded people. If you fool around with people who do not value what you value, your life will be drama-filled.
3. Know how people resolve conflict. I like to talk things out. No matter how uncomfortable or challenging, at some point mature adults have to talk and seek to resolve things in ways that make us better, wiser people. Do not suffer people who hurt you and then leave you to clean up their mess. Find out how people resolve conflicts before you get attached to or work with them, because all human relationships have conflict.
Sophia Nelson is the author of “The Woman Code” and an award-winning author and journalist. Follow her on Twitter @IAmSophiaNelson and learn more about The Woman Code at
iamsophianelson.com. The above excerpt is published with the permission of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2014.
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