There’s an idea out there in the psychology world that we have control, to a large extent, over how other people treat us. This is big one that I’ve recently been finding myself reflecting on more than usual.
Now this becomes quite obvious if we were to be rude and mean to someone – it’s pretty much a given that they will respond to us with anger or aggression. Nothing profound there. And, sometimes our bosses, coworkers, friends, loved ones, and even complete strangers will be overtly rude to us for no apparent reason and I’m not saying we necessarily caused them to treat us this way. The fact is, sometimes people are just having bad days and they decide to take it out on the next innocent person who unknowingly crosses their path – no matter who it is.
But what I am talking about here is something that we’re not quite as aware of because it’s likely going on just below the surface.
I’m talking about having a partner who often talks down to you, or coworkers who ‘let’ you do all the work on a group project, or friends who have stopped inviting you out as often, or a boss who doesn’t seems to trust you with more important and interesting tasks.
In other words, the times when people don’t treat us the way we want them to.
This can be kind of a hard and painful idea to really look at and reflect on. Could it really be true that I’m largely responsible for setting the stage for how others treat me? Often yes, but you’re not doing it on purpose – especially if people aren’t treating you well.
Think about it this way: Are there certain friends who you would never cancel plans on, but others with whom you would? Have you had bosses who you find you want to impress and please and others you don’t really care to? Are there certain people who you would call the day of to make plans and others you only plan with a week or two in advance? Are there friends you don’t call and invite out as often because they’ve declined most of your invitations over the past few months? Are there some family members who you feel you can be straightforward and honest with and others you don’t talk to about how you’re really feeling? Are there some friends you trust with your most personal secrets and others you would never go to in confidence?
What have they done to influence how you approach them?
This idea can be really challenging, or even uncomfortable for some of us – especially if we often find ourselves being treated poorly in our relationships. But we can’t put ALL the blame on others for their wrong doings and point the finger 100% at them. We might have to take some pretty major responsibility and look inward, or at least partly inward and share some of the onus.
The good, if not GREAT news is that we are NOT helpless victims.
If we have the ability to play a major role in how others treat us for worse, then we can recast those roles, alter our approach, and create opportunities for others to treat us how we actually want to be treated!
We can start doing things that show others we are trustworthy. We make small gestures to show our loved ones we care about and value them. We can use our voice to set boundaries and speak assertively when others seem to be taking advantage of us or treating us in ways that are inappropriate or rude.
No, it’s not always going to be easy to do nor will we have great success with every attempt, but feeling more secure in and of ourselves and our relationships definitely makes it worth it.
Julia Kristina is a Mental Health Therapist who lives in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada. She runs a vibrant clinical counselling practice, is a speaker, workshop facilitator, blogger, and recovered ‘Friends’ junkie. In her spare time she likes to power walk, power talk, and power drill. You can read and see more from Julia Kristina on her Good For Me Blog.