What Are YOU Unwittingly Teaching Other People? Or How To Become A Tolerance-Free Zone In 4 Simple Steps.

So there I was at my girl friend’s house.

She was overwhelmed, cross and drained. She lamented about her clients who were calling at the weekend, early in the morning, even late Friday night.

No one was honouring her schedule.

I told her something I learned years ago while watching day time telly.

Day time television? No really… this is good.

It’s from American psychologist and talk show host-with-the-most, Dr Phil McGraw, and it’s a fundamental truth that has served me (and my clients) very well indeed.

It is this:


Her eyes lit up. She couldn’t believe it was that simple. And the more we talked, the more excited she got. Cue happy dance.

So, what does it mean?

It means you either teach people to treat you with respect, or you don’t.

It means you’re (partly) responsible for the mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else.

It means you shape others’ behaviour when you teach them what they can and cannot get away with.

Wow. It’s a head spinner.

In other words…

Stop blaming other folks in your life for not magically knowing your rules…especially if you never enforce them yourself.

Quit getting grouchy when people fail to read your mind and don’t miraculously meet your expectations.

Stop expecting others to know exactly what you want…especially if you don’t have the cojones to voice your wants aloud.

I am NOT pointing the finger here, ladies. Lawd knows…. I’ve ticked the boxes above. Frequently.

Here are four simple steps for teaching people how to treat you.

1. Start By Knowing What You WANT. And What You DON’T Want.

Pick an area of your life where you want to be treated differently. Get clear on how you’d like to be treated. And get crystal clear on what you will no longer tolerate.

Think about your words, your actions and even your use of silence. We use all of these when we teach others how to treat us.

For example, if you choose to stay in a conversation while someone is belittling you, then you’re teaching them that this behaviour is okay dokes by you. You’re basically saying, “more of this please”.


<<sound of penny dropping>>

Now, let’s apply this to weight loss.

If your partner cooks scrumptious meals but becomes Senor Martyr when you eschew second helpings, you might decide, “I eat what my body requires to be replete, and NO more. Irrespective of hurt / sarky / unhelpful comments tossed my general direction by the cook.”

And to conspire for your success, go on, be kind and have a chat about your recent decision. You need to remind your partner that when you refuse second helpings, it’s only the calories you’re pushing away, NOT them.

Simple hey.

But it’s amazing how many of us put up with these sabotage-y interactions E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y. because we aren’t clear on what we want. And we’re vague about what we won’t tolerate.

You MUST learn to stand up for your wants and don’t wants. If you don’t… who will?

2. Find Your Triggers.

If the people in your life treat you in an undesirable way, ask yourself what you’re doing to reinforce or allow that treatment.

Choose one situation where you feel mistreated. Ask yourself, “How do I allow this to happen?”

Dig deep.

Real deep.

A little deeper now.

You’ll be amazed to see how often you unwittingly choose to ignore your own needs. And then get cross about it.

This process can show you where you get triggered.

For instance, you might be tempted to say, “Well, I don’t have a choice! He makes me feel guilty if I don’t eat the third helping / do it his way / keep him happy!”

There, my friend, is your trigger.

G U I L T.

Acknowledge that you allowed the situation so that you could avoid feeling guilty.

Then, recognise that guilt is your trigger.

It’s this guilt which’ll tempt you to abdicate responsibility for your own needs.

Once you are aware of your triggers you’ll recognise them when they next appear and be able to make a different choice.

And you know this already…there WILL be a next time. As they say the lesson will re-appear until you’ve learned it. Mother Nature’s great like that, ain’t she!

3. Practice Makes Perfect.

One reason people struggle with this is that they wait until they’re triggered before they attempt to set boundaries.

Please P L E A S E PLEASE don’t communicate when you’re in a highly-charged emotional state. By then…and we’ve ALL been here (!!!) … there’s NO way you’re teaching people how to treat you.

Instead you’re blaming, finger-pointing, arse-covering and making yourself the victim.


We’re cool chicas. We don’t do that.

Instead, chill out, wait, get calm, then go back to Step #2.

Here’s the really great news.You can declare any relationship ‘reopened for negotiation’ any time you choose. Even a pattern of relating that is decades old can be redefined. Before you re-open the negotiation, you must commit to do so from a position of love, strength and power, not fear and self-doubt.

4. Teach YOU How to Treat You.

Not everyone is going to honour your requests. C’est la vie.

Fortunately… YOU can teach YOU to treat YOU well.

If you want others to treat you with respect, make sure you treat yourself with respect. If you want others to love you, you better lead by example and give some lovin’ to yourself.

You MUST include yourself in your equation.

If you’ve told your clients that you don’t take business calls on weekends, then YOU don’t make business calls on weekends. And you don’t receive calls either.

Easy aye : )

So peeps, pay attention to how you are teaching others to treat you…how you are treating you….and make sure it is the lesson you want them to learn.

Love etc, Avril

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3 Responses to What Are YOU Unwittingly Teaching Other People? Or How To Become A Tolerance-Free Zone In 4 Simple Steps.

  1. Ling Tsoy says:

    Hello again!

    Sorry have the order of your articles backwards from the one about marhsmallows, but this seems like a direct follow-on from that discussion!

    ‘But it’s amazing how many of us put up with these sabotage-y interactions E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y. because we aren’t clear on what we want. And we’re vague about what we won’t tolerate.’

    The problem that delays setting clear boundaries is getting over the vagueness and before you can communicate that with anyone, I think.

    What kind of train of thought or exercises to outline things clearly, do you suggest?


  2. Avril says:

    Hello Ling!

    I learned something very cool this week and I’m delighted to share it with you. I’ve found it to be a reeeeeally useful tool for when I need to make a decision to go left or right, say yes or no, you get the picture. It’s SUCH a handy tool for getting things CLEAR in my head so I can communicate my wishes with others.

    Here goes.

    Think about the thing you need a decision on. And when you’re thinking about the thing, ask yourself, “do I feel expanded or contracted?”. Sounds weird, doesn’t it….but it works! It’s like ‘checking in on your unconscious mind to get it’s opinion on the matter at hand. If your body language contracts and you notice your breathing becomes shallow and your shoulders dip – then that’s a contraction. That’s your unconscious mind saying ‘nope’. If on the other hand, when you think about doing the thing (the thing you’re deciding to do or not), you get excited butterflies, your shoulder go back, you feel alive and your breathing deepens…that my lovely Ling, is expaaaaaaaaaansion. And that’s a ‘yes please, more of this’.

    I trust that makes sense. It’s SUCH a useful tool. It really helps distinguish between what I ought to do because society or other people say I should, and what YOU really want for yourself. Remember, it’s YOUR life, you make up the rules. I trust this tool helps you get clear on what you want, so you can start setting clear boundaries and teach others how to treat you.


  3. Alison says:

    Hi Avril,

    What you’re saying really resonates with me.

    I was staying with an ex-colleague for a few days recently. This person kept correcting me about things I was saying and I found it quite annoying, particularly because she is someone I respect. I could feel my self esteem getting lower and lower as time passed. Dinner came round and in the middle of it she went off to arrange a chocolate dessert. I thought she was going to get something ready made, in which case I’d have politely said no thanks as chocolate late at night badly affects my ability to sleep. It turns out she went off to bake something from scratch and then produced this wonderful pudding which was crammed full of cocoa powder. I ate some and enjoyed it but guess what – had the most awful sleepless night… a combination of being wired from eating too much cocoa and self-loathing for not having the where-withall to stand up for myself.

    I was meant to stay another night but I left the next day and moved into a hotel and ended up apologizing to her about it!

    So, your advice about teaching others how to treat you is spot on. Thank you for giving me the encouragement to teach people to treat me better!

    Love Alison

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