Danielle Navonne: a Writer, experiencing and sharing the journey of life one Word at a time.

“We teach people how to treat us; be careful of the lessons you give.”

This was my Facebook status a few days ago, and it seemed to resonate with many of my Facebook friends. I actually grew to learn this lesson some years back, and was very recently reminded of its truth.

Although I’m not a huge Dr. Phil fan, (sorry, 😐 Lol), I wholeheartedly agree with his admonition on this subject:

You either teach people to treat you with dignity and respect, or you don’t. This means you are partly responsible for the [repeated] mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else. You shape others’ behavior when you teach them what they can get away with and what they cannot.”

My lack of understanding this concept when I was younger, resulted in me accepting what should have been pretty unacceptable behavior from people. As I grew older and began to look at the mistreatment I’d received (in romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, etc.,), I was able to identify ways in which I taught people that I would accept unacceptable behavior.

I can recall an old boyfriend who repeatedly disrespected our relationship. But because I wanted to forgive and give him (and our relationship) another chance, I agreed to stay, with virtually no consequences to his actions. And like clockwork, every few months, this same disrespectful behavior happened again. At the time, I couldn’t understand it: “Shouldn’t he be so grateful to me that I forgave him with no consequences, that he would never do that disrespectful thing to me again?” Quite the contrary, it’s because there were no consequences that he was taught that it was acceptable behavior.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that forgiveness is a very necessary part of our emotional health. But, in my opinion, forgiving it, and taking it are two totally different things. If we are disrespected, mistreated, put in harm’s way, or disregarded, we must choose how to respond to that mistreatment. And whatever choice we make, sets the precedent and teaches that person what they can and cannot do to us.

I’ve also faced this situation with friends. Friends who were emotionally draining, financially draining, or disrespectful of my time/space. At times I would think, “why does she always dump her problems on me, but is never there when I need an ear?” Or, “why am I always the one she comes to when she needs money?” I realized later that the reason was simple: because I taught her that she could.

Inherent in my compliance, was acceptance. Whether I complied by always being there, always loaning the money, or saying nothing at all, I was teaching that I accepted this kind of treatment. And until I changed my acceptance level, I kept getting the same thing.

People do to you exactly what you allow.

Let’s look at this in a very simple and practical setting: You work a 9-to-5 job, and your friend doesn’t. She calls you almost everyday – during the middle of your workday – to talk about absolutely nothing. You’re frustrated but you keep answering the phone. Well, as long you keep answering, you’re teaching her that, “even though I have a 9-to-5, it’s OK for you to call me in the middle of the day to talk about nothing.” If you stop answering between 9am and 5pm, eventually she’s going to learn not to randomly call you during that time. (And if you’re wondering, yes, I have actually tried this one! It works. Lol 😉 )

According to my bff, Dr Phil, if the people in your life treat you in an undesirable way, you have to figure out what you are doing to reinforce, elicit or allow that treatment. For example, when people are aggressive, bossy or controlling toward you — and they still get their way — you have essentially rewarded them for unacceptable behavior.

Take some time to think about how people in your life are treating you. What standards are you accepting right now? If anyone is treating you poorly, pay attention to what message you’re giving them about that behavior.

Commit to teaching people how to treat you, and make sure the lessons are clear.


Comments on: "Teaching People How to Treat You" (14)

  1. Another great piece Ms. Danielle Navonne. Really great topic I believe any and everyone can relate to this in one way or another.

  2. So true! I’ve struggled with this very issue for such a long time and only learned to teach people what was acceptable in the last couple of years. I had accepted some pretty ridiculous behaviour myself and it’s so good to read your blog as I can totally relate. At first when trying to re-teach within my current relationships I felt like I was being mean when creating boundaries but in developing those boundaries helped me to really determine who were true friends and who weren’t. When reading your blog it was like you were totally laying out what my life had been and it was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in thinking and knowing that I deserve better. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Danielle Navonne said:

    Thank you so much MDillon!! It really helps to know that what I’m saying resonates with others!

    And Shelley, I’ve just learned this lesson in the past few years as well. And honestly, I think Im still learning some aspects of it. I understand what you’re saying because I still struggle with the balance of feeling like I’m being mean or too harsh at times. I’m a very forgiving person (sometimes to a fault), so sometimes it’s hard to find the balance between forgiving someone for mistreatment, but still not accepting that behavior as a part of my life.

    In addition to sending the message to others though, I’ve found that this is also about the message we send to ourselves. When we accept the unacceptable, it’s a direct shot to our self-worth. We’re basically telling ourselves that we don’t deserve (or don’t think we can get) better treatment. However, when we don’t accept the unacceptable behavior, we send an empowering and affirming message to ourselves that we deserve better. Its basically about realizing your own worth instead of letting someone else formulate it for us.

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey! Good for you for re-teaching and setting boundaries! That is an awesome thing to be able to do!

  4. Sherry Thornton said:

    Great piece Danielle! This is sometimes a hard lesson to learn!

  5. Danielle Navonne said:

    Thanks, Sherry! And yes, I agree – this is definitely a tough one! I’m learning it as I go… 🙂

  6. Kirstin said:

    Great post Danielle! Couldn’t agree more!

  7. Wow…that was JUST what I needed to hear today. Thanks so much, Danielle. Gives me lots to think about.

  8. This is a great post, I’m glad I just found your blog today–looks like I have some reading to catch up on! God bless!

  9. trinityizreal, Michelle, and Kirstin – thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Im glad this topic spoke to you!

  10. This is an excellent, thought-provoking, well-thought out piece. Thanks, Danielle. I hadn’t realised this before–but you are right!

  11. Natalie said:

    yes, yes, and yes. I am learning this now with friends and family. It’s hard for me because I am always worried about other people’s happiness and not mine.

  12. I, too, am the kind of person who often puts other people’s happiness (and comfort) before my own. The lesson I’m now learning though is that my happiness and my comfort is no less important than theirs.

  13. Ma’am you’re so wise I have nothing more to add thank you! I needed this 🙂

  14. So glad you found it helpful, Lydia! Thanks so much!

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