Feb 122015 1 Response

Show Me How to Treat You (Part 2)

Last week I wrote When Life Hurts: Show Me How to Treat You. The article was about going through times of grief and the need to show other people how they can best love and interact with us.

Yet the article has a second application as well.

At all times we are showing others how they should treat us.

A church member was irate. Something had happened which he did not like and he was voicing his displeasure. There was nothing inappropriate about his opinion or even his anger. He had a right to be mad and, truth be told, I think the actions we had taken were wrong. I was more than prepared to listen to what he had to say, admit our mistakes, and attempt to rectify the situation.

However, as the conversation continued, the church member’s anger got the best of him and he began to speak to me in a way in which no one speaks to me. I’m a pretty level-headed, laid-back guy. While I understand that others have differing personalities, there are some clear boundary lines which I have drawn. I can take passion in a conversation as long as it is directed at the issue, but I will not allow it to be directed at me.

When the church member began to strongly speak in a more attacking manner, I stopped him, leaned forward and said, “You will not speak to me that way. No one speaks to me that way.” (See: Two Steps to Solving 90% of all Relationship Problems)

I meant it and he understood it. It wasn’t a threat, but it was a clear announcement that unless he changed his tone, our conversation was over.

It would be easy as a pastor to allow people to treat me however they wish. In some cases they are giving large amounts of money of their own accord to fund what we are trying to accomplish. While I try to give people a wide strike zone, there are some things that I simply will not accept. If you cannot treat me within a certain level of humanity, we cannot interact.

In every aspect of life, we are showing other people how to treat us.

Important note: this does not imply that everyone will treat us the way we expect. And in no way am I trying to place blame on anyone who is in an abusive or manipulative relationship and claiming they are the cause of it. That simply isn’t the case.

But it is true that in many situations in life we have the ability to determine how others will treat us. If we draw clear boundary lines of what is acceptable and unacceptable, communicate those boundaries, and stick with them, others will quickly learn how to best communicate and treat us. (See: Use Hard Words Not Harsh Words)

Far too often, we fail to understand our influence within relationships. We think the way people treat us is solely their decision. While they are completely responsible for how they treat us, we can help them understand what is the best way to treat us and under what conditions we would not continue the relationship.

There are two main ways we influence how others treat us.

First, we draw boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. We are not judging others or pretending to be better than others. We are defining what we will allow or not allow. Of course one of the loudest announcements of the boundaries we have drawn is not what we say, but what we do. Many times, others simply treat us the way we are treating them. We cannot stop others from treating us poorly if we continually treat others poorly. Change how you treat others and that will often change how others treat you.

Secondly, we show others how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves. This is often an overlooked aspect of our relationships. I regularly tell single adults, “Don’t expect someone else to do what you refuse to do.” They expect someone to love them when they refuse to love themselves. I’m not saying you need to be arrogant, but if you don’t have a basic respect for yourself, why should anyone else respect you? People will often respond to you the way you respond to yourself. Treat yourself better and they might do the same. (See: Top 10 Communication Posts Your Co-workers Should Read)

Here are two examples of boundaries I have drawn regarding how others will communicate with me:

1. You are free to talk to me, but you are not free to yell at me. I’m not a yeller and I don’t like to be yelled at. While I give a great deal of latitude in this area, there comes a point in which I make my boundary line clear. Someone can yell about a situation, but I do not respond well when they direct their yelling at me. I figure if my wife doesn’t yell at me then neither should you.

2. You are free to talk with me, but you are not free to talk at me. I’m not afraid of difficult conversations. I don’t particularly enjoy them, but I also don’t run from them if they need to take place. But I love the word conversation. It implies a give and take. I understand when someone wants me “just to listen.” They desire to be heard and I’m happy to hear them. However, after they have fully spoken their piece, I expect equal time. To speak at me, but refuse to communicate with shows a lack of respect for me, my opinion, or my understanding of a situation. It’s a situation I won’t accept. We can talk with each other all day long, but if you only want to talk at me, I see no reason for the conversation.

We cannot control every situation and we cannot influence every person in our lives. Sometimes people will treat us however they wish to treat us. Yet often times we have the opportunity to influence them and on many occasions we at least have the choice of whether or not we will be in relationship with that person or not.

Are your children, spouse, friends, or co-workers treating you in a way you do not like? Have you clearly communicated your boundaries and stuck to them? Are they simply treating you the way you are treating them?

One Response to Show Me How to Treat You (Part 2)
  1. […] In each situation, highly competent people mastered multiple areas of life, but they were unable to ... kevinathompson.com/what-anger-often-reveals

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