Apr 062019

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in college is that we train people how to treat us. A psychology professor called a young woman to the front of the class and complimented her on a paper she had turned in, telling her it was one of the best he had seen in several semesters. She had a big smile on her face and he asked her that made her feel. She said it made her feel nice.

Then he added that not only was she smart, she was really pretty. One of the prettiest girls on campus. He asked how that made her feel and she said, “that was nice, thank you.” Then he put his arm around her shoulder and hugged her and said something about her being not just pretty, but downright sexy. Then he asked her how she felt about that. She was hesitant when she said it was okay, but you could tell it really wasn’t. Then he pulled her even closer and said something about if he was 30 years younger he’d ask her out. Then he asked her how she felt about that, and she said that made her uncomfortable.

He said that was the lesson we all needed to learn, that when someone stepped over the line and started to make us feel uncomfortable, to break our rules, to push our limits, we needed to remind them of where that line was and get them back behind it.

He said it’s the same thing if you’re a woman and your husband or boyfriend had a bad day at work and comes home from work and yells at you, and you let it pass, maybe the next day or the next, or at some point in the future he’s going to give you a little shove when he is mad about something. And eventually it will progress to him hitting you. He said by not drawing the line the first time he took his frustrations out on you, you made it okay to do that, so he stepped forward and you moved your boundaries. With no reason not to, he would step forward again, past the new boundary line.

If you’re a parent and your child’s bedtime is 8 PM but they whine and beg to stay up another half hour to see something on TV, and you allow it, you just moved bedtime from 8 to 8:30. Likewise, if you are a boss and starting time is 9 AM, but an employee comes in at 9:15 complaining about the traffic or finding a place to park, and you allow that without reprimanding them, you just moved starting time to 9:15.

The same applies in every part of life. Do you have rude campground neighbors who walk through your site uninvited, or let their dog do its business and not clean it up? If you did not speak up and put a stop to it the first time, the second time it happens is on you. If you have a friend or relative who borrows money or tools and does not pay you back as promised or return them when he said he would, it’s your duty to let them know that is not acceptable and they need to remedy the situation immediately. If you have a high maintenance person in your life who places demands on you and bullies or guilts you into doing what they want, it’s because you allow them to. If you go along because “it’s just easier” or because “that’s just how he or she is” you have only yourself to blame.

Step up to the plate. Set boundaries. Draw that line and refuse to compromise on the things that are important for your own wellbeing in a relationship. People who cannot or will not accept that because it doesn’t fit into their agenda are toxic. If you have to, cut them out just like you would a cancerous tumor. In the long run you will be healthier and happier.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I’m old enough to remember when mentally ill people were put in hospitals, not Congress.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  8 Responses to “We Train People How To Treat Us”

  1. So very true Mr. Nick. I wish I had been in that class with you about 30 years ago. It would have saved me a lifetime of grief. I seem to attract toxic people, from a mother whose middle name is Guilt Trip to a sister who thinks its okay to micromanage my life. I finally had to move from Chicago to Dallas to distance myself from their constant demands. Then I allowed myself to become friends with three different people who were just as bad if not worse. Finally at age 40 I met a man who taught me that the only person who is going to stand up for me is me. His words mirrored yours when he said people walked all over me because I allowed them to. Well, no more rug here! I lost some people in my life who could not accept the new me who set limits and stuck to them but it was no great loss. I am happier and healthier for it. Oh, and that man who convinced me God gave me a backbone for a reason? In June we will celebrate our 10th anniversary.

  2. Great column, Nick. You’re absolutely right…folks treat us like we let them.

  3. I have a “friend” that this describes to a T. I won’t hear from her for weeks and suddenly I get a call and she’s 5 minutes away. Doesn’t matter what plans I may have had, she expects me to drop everything and do what she wants. If I try to explain to her that its not a good time she says “But we hardly ever get to spend any time together” and puts on a pouty hurt face. So I give in and we do whatever it is she wants and then she wants to make plans for a few days later or whatever too. Then when the time comes around she is a no show. No call or text – nothing. If I call her she says she forgot or something else came up. Then I won’t here from here again for weeks until she repeats the whole process.

  4. Can’t agree with you more Nick. thanks for the reminder. I think that as we get older we tend to forget about drawing the line as it is easier to just move on.
    George L

  5. Amen.

  6. Except? It should be accept.

  7. I completely agree with your post. Well done!

  8. Awesome blog, Nick. Great advice… thank you.

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