In my personal life and in my practice, I run up against relationships that are thwarted because of a negative or difficult interaction that ensues. It necessitates teaching people how to treat us in order to facilitate our needs being met. I observe that we generally make two inherent mistakes in our assumptions regarding others. For one, we expect that others “should” know how to treat us. The other is that we treat others in the way we want to be treated.
We are all uniquely different. This is represented in the way in which we generally function, cope, and communicate. We are forever changing and evolving, and our lives are forever in flux. Because of all these changes happening continually, there is a need for us to be flexible in our expectations. We also need to be accepting of these changes because often they are inevitable and will happen whether or not we want them to or are ready for them.
We impact and are impacted by ourselves, others, and the world at large. We conceptually understand that our lives are continually changing, which requires flexibility in our approach to ourselves, others, and the world at large. But we still act and treat others with a set of expectations that at times are judgmental, rigid, inflexible, and unrealistic.
There are many extraneous factors that impact us on a physiological, emotional, and social level. Some we are in control of and some we are not. We impose our thoughts, feelings, and values on others, expecting that they “should” get us and act in line with this knowledge about us. We are often left with frustration, anger, and disappointment over our unmet needs because the person on the other end just didn’t get it right.
Because we are forever growing and changing, there is a need for us to teach others how to treat us at all points in our life as we evolve. This as a continual, ongoing process. It is our responsibility to update others as to where we are at, so they have a better idea about how to be more attentive and connected to us.
If we think of it this way, we will always expect to guide others where we are at and respectfully express what we need, as opposed to expecting that they will instinctually know and get frustrated and disappointed when they don’t.
It can greatly reduce frustration, anger and/or disappointment to know that we have a responsibility and ability to assert ourselves and let others know when they did not meet us where we are at and need to be.
If after expressing ourselves, we discover that our needs are not in sync with the person at the other end, it provides us with room for discussion, compromise, and an understanding of each other’s needs.
To teach people how to treat you, takes these things into consideration:
- Be aware of what your needs are in the moment. Think about what would be comforting to you and make the commitment that you want to facilitate connection.
- Expect that a person will most likely treat you in the way that he/she likes to be treated (i.e., if they like to be hugged when they are sad, they will most likely reach out to hug, if they like distance when they are sad, they are more likely to distance). That is their frame of reference and template. It typically isn’t anything personal or coming from a place where they are purposefully neglecting you. If you need something different, challenge yourself and express it in a way that the person can hear you. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be in the same position and will continue to not get your needs met. The best thing that can happen is that you’ll feel heard, acknowledged, and will be comforted.
- Check in with the other person and assess if what they needed in the past still applies to this current situation. Likewise, if what you need has changed due to the time and circumstance, express that to them clearly and directly. For example, you can say, “The last time I needed to talk more, this time I need you to just be here with me. I prefer speaking more about this later, I’m feeling too unsettled now.” To someone else, you can express, “I remember you telling me when you’re feeling frustrated that you need space; I want to be supportive to you. Is that what you need now too or do you need something else from me?”
- Set appropriate boundaries in your relationships and impose them when you need to. It sets a precedence in a relationship and lets the other person know what your core foundational needs are and ones you are not willing or able to compromise on (i.e., lying to one another, talking disrespectfully to each other, etc.).
- Use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements, and avoid blaming and being accusatory toward the other person. Use the four parts of the “I” statement when you are communicating: (a) When I wasn’t fully heard after I expressed that something was bothering me, (b) The effects were that I went to bed having all of this on my mind and slept restlessly, (c) I felt sad and lonely, and (d) I prefer if you would check in on me because most often, I really do want to speak if I bring it up.
You may inherently communicate from underlining fear, worry, frustration, and/or anger. Using these skills may not necessarily come easily to you. Practicing them will help to integrate them so that they are more natural and habitual.
Initiating and maintaining relationships that are reciprocal and built on mutual respect and open communication requires continual attention and concerted effort. Your relationships can be deeper, more meaningful, and help enrich your life.