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Teach Others How to Treat You

Image of dirt path along water's edge of a calm bay. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, teach others, Katherine Broadway

“I teach others how to treat me by what I allow.”

-Steven Coventry

We tell other people how they are allowed to treat us, often without saying a word. It's a lesson we are taught growing up, and can pass along without being aware that we're doing it.

Take the example of Joan: growing up, Joan was taught that respect was something reserved for others, not given to her. Her father ordered her around like she was a servant. Her mother would yell at her to get out of bed in the morning. If she fell while playing, she was scolded for being clumsy. When she accomplished a goal, she was never praised or rewarded; instead, the goal was criticized as unworthy, not important enough or not advanced enough. In short, her parents made demands of her that were unreasonable and not age-appropriate. Joan continues to demand this of herself, and allows others to do so as well.

John’s father was a high school coach and demanded his son play football. He was a tall, lanky guy whose body was not suited to play football. It was decided he would be the quarterback. John worked hard, yet he was unable to accomplish more than third string. His father was clearly disappointed in him. What went unnoticed was that was a gifted student. He had a brilliant mind and a creative spirit. He was not valued for who he was.

We Have a Choice

As adults, it never occurred to Joan and John that they had a choice about how they were treated. They had no idea that they had value and worth. It never occurred to them that they could say no. The idea that they had any power to determine how they were treated was foreign to them. John and Joan developed a magical belief that people should know what they wanted and needed. If what was wanted and needed was not given without them asking, they assumed that they they were unworthy, unloved and unwanted.

When Joan was introduced to the idea that you consciously teach others how to treat you, she was flabbergasted. She had no idea what that meant. Teaching others how to treat you is done in how you allow them to treat you. You tell others what is acceptable and unacceptable if they want to be in your life. You demonstrate this in the actions you take.

You Deserve to be Treated With Respect

The first step in this process is learning that you deserve to be treated with respect and to respect yourself. It means knowing what you want and what you need and valuing those things for yourself. In other words, it means that when you feel a need or a desire, you believe it is important and make every effort to take care of


John was demeaned, diminished and devalued when he did not become a football star. Who he actually was did not matter — only his father’s desire mattered. Joan was taught that her needs were unimportant. Her mother devalued her accomplishments through criticism. She was devalued as a human being with needs, desires and intelligence. Joan and John were taught they did not matter.

Joan and John felt that it was an impossible task to learn how to treat themselves with love and respect much less to teach others how to treat them.

You can start this change like any other change we've talked about in this blog: one step at a time. I support the “less is more” school/philosophy of change. Every change you make leads to more change. Soon you will find you have changed a great deal. In the world of finance they call it compound interest.

Six ways you can take that first step in your own life.

1. Love and respect yourself:

Speak words of kindness and praise to yourself about yourself. Develop the belief that you are worthy. Worthy does not mean perfect, it means that you are a human being with the right to be treated with respect by others simply because you are human. When you learn to treat yourself with respect, you will recognize when others are being disrespectful and unkind and you will not allow it to happen.

2. Use your body to communicate what you expect from others:

Your body holds your power and your grace. How you live in your body sends messages to everyone you meet about how you feel about yourself. Learn to live in your whole body. Good posture, a head held high, a confident smile on your face all convey that you believe that you are a person worthy of respect and kindness from others.

3. Speak up:

As I say to my grandchildren, “I can’t help you if you do not use your words to tell me your problem and what you need.” Crying, screaming, hiding your head and giving the silent treatment will not give others the tools they need in order to help you. Some days that speech works and some days it doesn’t. Regardless, it is true. There are no mind readers. No matter how much someone loves you, or how well they know you, they do not know what your specific needs and desires are without your input. So speak up!

4. Start with the question, “What do I want?”

Remember, this is the school of the small things. You don't have to find the meaning of your life, simply ask things such as, what do I want to eat? What do I want to wear? What do I want to read? What do I want to do with the next 10 minutes? These questions give you much needed information about who you are, and they are a place to begin.

5. Ask yourself, “How do I want to be treated?”

Our role models come from many places. It could be a primary caretaker, a grandparent, family member or friend. Some people turn to turn to movies or characters in a novel. I know a woman who learned from the books she read. She says that is what she used to find her role models. Regardless of where you find that role model, use their example to decide how you want to be treated.

6. Learn what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors:

We set the guidelines and the rules, and we show in our words and our actions what is acceptable and unacceptable to do to us. With this knowledge, you will be able to set boundaries and let people know that you will only allow those who treat you well to be a part of your life.

If you don’t take care of yourself, people pick up on this and they will take advantage of you. You have to let people know that you honor yourself. It all starts with knowing the answers to such questions as, “How do I treat myself? What do I value? What do I want? What do I think I deserve?”

We can’t change others; however, we can create a different reaction in others if we change ourselves. We can teach people how to treat us. Call me if you need help teaching others how to treat you. (919)881-2001

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