Do clients, friends, family, team members, or colleagues use guilt or anger to get you to do something? Do you leave some conversations feeling exhausted? Do you complain about the same people in your life over and over? Are you baffled about the way people respond (or don’t)?
Are you totally confused about why people treat you a certain way? Consider this; you teach people how to treat you.

Learning and embracing this simple concept can be life-changing. You will start to feel much happier with your interactions. By intentionally teaching others how to treat you, you get to start experiencing more interactions that feel better and are, on the whole, more productive. People will treat you how you allow them to.

Whether you know it or not, you are teaching people how to treat you. Your actions, responses, and feedback are all giving them boundaries, and opportunities. Just as they give you the same opportunities and boundaries. You are in charge of teaching people how to treat you. If you don’t do this with intention, you will often be left feeling like you don’t understand other people’s behavior.  If you allow certain behaviors, good or bad, the people around you learn what is okay and acceptable and what is not allowed and unappreciated.

For example: Think of training the doggo – Ruffalicious (Ruff for short). If you allow Ruff to sit on the couch every day but then when company comes over you tell him to get down, poor Ruff becomes sad and confused and doesn’t get down. You, of course, get mad at the dog, but the Ruff doesn’t understand. You, frustrated, complain about ole Ruff and how he doesn’t listen. Your opinion of Ruff, and that of your guests, is changed to “He doesn’t listen”. When your company leaves, unsure if he can get on the couch anymore, Ruff is insecure, and you feel bad for being mad. So, you invite him on the couch to cuddle and scratch that spot behind his ear… until next time. This is an exhausting process, right!? Ruff doesn’t get it, you are frustrated, all-around bad interaction. (Side note: Dogs don’t hold grudges, but people do!)

With people, there are more severe consequences to this wishy-washy dance. Professionally, an example is working on the weekends. If you start with a job answering calls and emails on nights and weekends the message you are sending is, “I am always available for you. I will answer your questions any time you ask, day or night. You can expect an immediate response from me.”  2 months later, someone is pissed because you didn’t respond to something on a Saturday while you were out of town with your family. You feel angry that they expect this kind of service. “I’ve given so much of my personal and family time to be available on Saturdays, and not only do they not appreciate it, they think they have a right to be angry with me!” Your professional relationship suffers, maybe your business does, and no one is happy. This, friends is a great example of why we must be careful how we teach people (and dogs) how to treat us.

How to teach: When you set clear expectations and boundaries with people, you have a much easier time enforcing them. If you explain you don’t work on the weekends, they don’t expect to hear from you on Saturday. If you tell a friend that her gossip is really draining on you and you would prefer that not be a topic of conversation, you avoid it altogether. If you are dealing with a toxic or difficult relationship, set very clear boundaries and expectations.

Teaching people how to treat you includes more than just a discussion like “Hey, I don’t like talking about Linda’s new boyfriend, it isn’t any of my business.” or “Hey I have a really busy schedule, it would be really helpful if you could try not to be late.”   Your behavior can be informative enough. Changing the topic of discussion when you don’t like where it is leading, or always showing up early teaches others that you value promptness.

When things get tough: Sometimes re-teaching people how to treat us is really difficult. In the situation of a toxic relationship be very clear about when and how you will talk with them or see them, what you will and will not do for them, and what you expect out of your interactions.

Stick to your guns: If people can’t abide by your boundaries, you need to make a choice. Maybe it is as simple as restating your needs, or it can mean ending the interaction/conversation/etc. You get to decide what you will allow.

People want to make you happy: Most people will shape up once they understand what you need or that you won’t tolerate their bad behavior. Keep the momentum by being sure to appreciate and positively reinforce people respecting your needs. Let them know that you appreciate how they treat you! Be grateful! Make sure you are reciprocating positivity and support to them as well, and you will see these situations ease.

Remember, you are in charge of teaching people how to treat you. And you are already doing it. So, think about what you need from your relationships and move forward intentionally about how you are teaching them to treat you. On the other side of the coin, consider how others are teaching you if you are unsure what they need – just ask!

As a business owner, this VERY REAL skill is something important to master, and as you master it you are going to see very real results from it.

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