“Can I make you more comfortable as you insult me?”
So, I’ve never actually said that. Yet, my behavior in the past might have communicated that. You see, I’m a recovering people pleaser. While I still aim to make my interactions with others positive, I don’t do so at my own expense.
I used to pride myself in being able to experience the emotions in the room and take ownership of them. When less-than-best behavior happened, I’d absorb it … even endure it. I’m a Marine, after all … I can take it.
Strength, in my mind, used to mean being unemotional in the face of toxicity. I could always keep my cool while others lost theirs. (Rudyard Kipling would be so proud!)
But, I’ve changed. So has my perspective. My real strength is still keeping my cool. But to add to that, I’m now courageous in communicating what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not. Pushing this idea further, it’s not just about me, it’s for the benefit of others.
In other words, I’m teaching people how to treat me and the people I care deeply about: friends, family, colleagues, and partners.
I can’t help but wonder how much better our world would be if more of us were to say: “You can’t talk to me, or anyone else, like this.” And, then be very clear about what’s acceptable, and what isn’t.
Communicating boundaries can be uncomfortable. Try these actions in order to feel as if you’re growing your confidence in doing so.
Here are Four Ways to Teach People How to Treat You.
- Be clear, first. Understand what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior around you. This is different from person to person. As an example, I don’t mind a little swearing here and there – but I absolutely will never tolerate being sworn at. I also don’t like it when people raise their voices; there’s no reason for this in a professional environment. This is the type of behavior I call out when I see it because it degrades the relationships around us so quickly.
- Use your example as the greatest teacher. Show others what “right” looks like in thought, word, and deed. This seems obvious, but it’s not always the case. If you hate gossip, don’t gossip. If you hate when people are late, always show up on time, and don’t ever make people wait on you.
- Use your voice to educate, not chastise. Be tough on standards and expectations, not on people. Often poor behavior has been tolerated, so the offending person isn’t aware that it’ll be a problem for you. Correcting others doesn’t have to be rude. It just needs to be done in a way that gives the person a little more dignity than they might deserve, and a lot more grace than you feel is necessary to deliver.
- Understand consequences. What will happen when others cross your boundaries? You need to be prepared to know how to handle these situations. Oftentimes, this is when you need to interject and force a difficult conversation. And, if you have the conversation and nothing happens, this is when escalation needs to occur, which can take many shapes and forms.
Being clear on your boundaries, and communicating them successfully, can be an emotional journey. Yet, it’s one worth taking because the reward is more positive, productive, and satisfying relationships where we spend more time in alignment with others and more focus on building – not degrading – the quality of our relationships.