Life Strategies

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Life Law #8: We Teach People How to Treat Us


Life Law #8: We teach people how to treat us.
Strategy: Own, rather than complain about, how people treat you. Learn to renegotiate your relationships to have what you want.


You either teach people to treat you with dignity and respect, or you don't. This means you are partly responsible for the mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else. You shape others' behavior when you teach them what they can get away with and what they cannot.

If the people in your life treat you in an undesirable way, figure out what you are doing to reinforce, elicit or allow that treatment. Identify the payoffs you may be giving someone in response to any negative behavior. For example, when people are aggressive, bossy or controlling — and then get their way — you have rewarded them for unacceptable behavior.

Because you are accountable, you can declare the relationship "reopened for negotiation" at any time you choose, and for as long as you choose. Even a pattern of relating that is 30 years old can be redefined. Before you reopen the negotiation, you must commit to do so from a position of strength and power, not fear and self-doubt. The resolve to be treated with dignity and respect must be uncompromising.

The worst thing you could do is make a lot of noise about changing things, only to revert to the old, familiar, destructive patterns. To talk about change and not to do it is to teach that person to treat your statements and declarations lightly. You will teach him or her to be patient, confident that you will soon give in. Where your relationship standards are concerned, commit to yourself that, although it may be difficult to effect change, you must not compromise. To compromise in this area is to sell out your most precious commodity: you.

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