"You teach people how to treat you."
The statement hit me like a ton of bricks.
Up until that moment, I had never quite looked at things from that perspective. Instead, my thoughts had been along the lines of:
"Don't people decide how they're gonna treat me?"
"Aren't their actions their choice - and isn't that something that's totally out of my control?"
Over the years, I have repeatedly discovered the answer to those questions, through personal experience and the experiences of others.
And the answer to both is: Yes, to some extent.
But you have way more power than you think.
Let me explain what I mean...
Here's the thing about meeting new people...until you get to know them, you know nothing about them.
You have no idea what they like or what they dislike - whether they like milk with their tea, or whether they prefer coffee altogether.
Whether they've travelled abroad every winter for the last five years, or whether they've never left the country they were born in.
Frankly, at the moment you see them walking through the door, you have not a single clue what their world looks like.
Yet, slowly but surely, you start to get some hints.
First you notice the way other people in the room treat them. You see:
This is all helpful, but the real fun begins when you personally interact with this mysterious individual. Right away, you observe:
Though you might not consciously realize it, you're silently soaking of all this in. You're building your own little narrative about them with all the details you've picked up so far.
But something even greater is happening during all of this.
That person is teaching you how to treat them.
Everyday, we teach people how to treat us.
And we do it in the most subtle, unusual ways.
Rarely do we ever literally say: "I want you to behave this way, or I don't want you to treat me like this," but we convey the same ideas all the time through our actions.
Sometimes we may say one thing but do another. Yet, as they say, actions speak louder than words.
In fact, actions scream aloud from the rooftops.
You see, whenever we interact with someone, we watch out for signs that inform of us something very important - how much that person values him/herself.
In fact, whenever we meet someone new, we instantly look for any kind of evidence that points to the answer. It's a vital piece of information that sets the tone for all our future interactions with them.
Everyday, we send out these messages about ourselves like cell phone towers emit RF waves.
And other people receive and process them.
But that's not all - these messages are constantly evolving. The way someone perceives you today is not the way they might perceive you tomorrow, or the next day.
You teach people how to treat you over time, and to be honest, it's a matter of lifelong education.
The lessons you teach people can impact not only your daily interactions, but also your legacy - the way people remember you long after you're gone.
With this in mind, let's consider some ways that you might be teaching people how to treat you, and how you can make sure that you're sending out the right message.
The way you talk about yourself is one of the first signals to others about how much you value yourself, and quickly informs them on the way they should treat you.
While it's normal for us to jokingly make fun of ourselves once in a while, try to make sure that you're not developing an unhealthy pattern of self-depreciation.
If you constantly speak disparagingly about yourself, people will take notes and treat you the same way.
At the very least, they'll start to think of you in that way.
So aim to be confident and show conviction, even when addressing your weaknesses.
You're not perfect, but you're not terrible either - you're a work in progress. Focusing on the positive will build you up and bring joy to those around you.
Our values and principles are the core of who we are. When you devotedly uphold your own values, you teach people how to treat you.
One the other hand, if you are wishy-washy and throw your standards out of the window whenever they become inconvenient, people will get mixed messages and start to wonder what's going on.
But that's not all...
Because you lack clearly defined boundaries, they'll think they can treat you any way they want.
Just think about the people in your life who demonstrate a strong sense of integrity, and reflect on the way it shapes their interactions.
A good reputation based on high standards is so powerful that it will continue to defend you even when you're not there.
This might seem like a small point, but it has so much of an impact on the way people treat you.
If you want others to respect your time, you have to respect your time and theirs.
Make an effort to be punctual to your appointments. Show up prepared and ready to go. Be sensitive to other people's time constraints. Let them know ahead of time if you know you're going to be late.
Not only does this make everyone's life easier, it teaches people to value your time when the roles are reversed.
Some people have a remarkable ability to completely kill the vibe whenever you tell them about your goals or aspirations.
They tell you it's impossible, that you're unrealistic, that they've never seen it done before.
So? There is always going to be a first.
Sometimes these doubts will come from jealous peers who would rather not see you succeed, but other times they'll come from well-intentioned friends and family members who might be in the habit of projecting their own fears and insecurities onto you.
Until you teach them otherwise.
By demonstrating a determined attitude and relentless work ethic you can stop these naysayers in their tracks and show them what can be done.
Last but not least, you teach people how to treat you by the way you treat others.
People are always watching, whether you realize it or not.
This means that for some people you meet, the way they see you treat someone else could leave a greater impression on them than the way you treat them directly.
Interestingly, it has been said that "your character is defined by the way you treat the people you're allowed to mistreat".
Some people become power-hungry and tyrannical when they receive the tiniest bit of authority.
Others show kindness and respect to whoever they interact with, whether the other person is a superior or subordinate.
No matter what path we choose, it doesn't take long for our actions to catch up with us.
"With the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return." - Luke 6:38
In conclusion, if we know that we have the ability to teach people how to treat us, it only makes sense that we teach them well.
We do so by making sure that we have solid standards, that our words are in harmony with our actions, and that we manifest confidence and optimism in everyday life.
As they say, a first impression is a lasting impression, so it's important to start teaching people how to treat you right from the moment you meet them.
When you do so, you'll eliminate confusion and create clarity.
People will know where they stand with you, and you'll lay the foundations for a strong relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.
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