I was a great fan of the late Wayne W. Dyer. I learned many great pieces of wisdom over the years from reading his work. One piece of wisdom which really sticks out is that you teach people how to treat. I had been someone who always criticised others for treating me badly and I always managed to absolve myself from any responsibility for my poor treatment. It was only when reading Dyer’s work that I realised that while I couldn’t stop somebody from treating my badly initially; my response to that poor treatment would teach them how to treat me. If I responded by making it clear that I wouldn’t tolerate poor treatment; I was teaching them that I must be treated with respect. If I responded by saying nothing; I was teaching them that it was ok to treat me like that.

An Example

I once worked for somebody whose family were good friends with my family. I even thought of him as a friend. A few weeks into the job, we had to work late (3 or four extra hours) 4 nights in a row. On the last night, he approached me and told me that while he knew he should pay me extra for the overtime; he didn’t have the money at that time. I thought of him as a friend so told him not to worry about it.

I worked with him for another 5 months and we worked late at least 3 nights per week. I never once got paid anything close to what I was supposed to be paid for the overtime. After a couple of months, he even started boasting about how much he was paying himself each week. He had the money to pay me what I was due but he knew that due to the family situation, I wouldn’t kick up a fuss about it.

It is easy to say that he was responsible for my poor treatment and he was. But I taught him to treat me like that by not insisting that I be paid what I was owed.

There are some key points you can take from the example above:

  • You teach people how to treat you both through your actions and your failure to act
  • When doing business, use your business head
  • A friend is only a friend if they treat you in the manner which you would expect your friends to treat you

You can improve your communication and relationship skills with my FREE Checklist - Do's and Don'ts of Dealing with Difficult People.

4 Situations where you teach people how to treat you

In every area of your life, you teach people how to treat you. The following are 4 broad situations where it is essential that you are proactive in teaching people how to treat you.

1. How you expect to be treated and spoken to


When one of our friends or family is being treated badly, we are very quick to tell them that they need to stand up for themselves. And on occasion, if they don’t stand up for themselves; we stand up for them. We seem to be very quick to realise that you teach people how to treat you when it is others being mistreated. So, we tell them to make it clear that they will not be treated this way. But when we are in the firing line, we forget the fact that we are teaching people how to treat us.

For almost 30 years, I had a ‘friend’ who would take every opportunity to insult my weight. Especially when he wasn’t feeling too good about himself. A few years back, I lost a lot of weight and he gained a considerable amount at the same time. Suddenly, he was in no position to insult my weight. So, did he stop? Well, he just switched to insulting my mother’s weight instead; though not to her face. That was it for me. I wasn’t going to have somebody in my life who was insulting my mother like that. It took him insulting somebody else for me to accept that he was the same clown that he was every time that he insulted me.

I think there are some common reasons why we don’t teach people how to treat us in these situations:

  • We want the approval of the person who is mistreating us
  • We don't want them to think we are too sensitive
  • We fear that we might be too sensitive
  • We don't want others to think that we have no sense of humour
  • We are personally invested in the situation
  • We are afraid that we may overreact e.g. become violent
  • We don't want them to think that they can offend us

Key Point

It doesn’t matter what the reason is. You need to determine the level of respect you expect to be treated with and then hold people to that standard. You do that when you teach people how to treat you.

Deal with difficult people

Teaching people how to treat you is just one strategy for dealing with difficult people. Learn more with the 'Deal with Difficult People Handbook'.

2. How you like to work


I really can’t stand when somebody stands looking over my shoulder as I work. Some people are not bothered by this but many of my friends can’t tolerate it either. We all have ways in which we like to work and just as importantly; ways in which we don’t like to work. You might not be able to control every aspect of your work but you can certainly control some of it.

It is always worth taking the time to figure out how you work best and how you enjoy working. If people want to build good working relationships with you; they should try to respect your preferred working methods and, where possible, work within those parameters. Of course, this works both ways. If you are trying to build good working relationships with others; find out how they like to work and try to blend your working style with theirs.

Your working preferences could be anything. As an example, here are some of my preferences:

  • Don't contact me about non-work related stuff during working hours
  • If I don't answer the phone; I am busy. I know you called and I will get back to you.
  • I prefer to be emailed
  • Remember that your emergency probably isn't an emergency for me
  • I don't socialise with people whom I work with or do business with
  • You have the right to make a reasonable request
  • If I say No; I mean No!
  • I strive to do my best. I know that perfection is neither possible nor necesary

knowing how best to work with others and; how best they can work with you allows you remain more organised and focused; achieving greater results in the process.

Key Point

Ensuring that your colleagues, family and friends know how you like to work is a simple but effective way to teach people how to treat you. It will improve the quality of the work you do together and it will greatly reduce stress and conflict.

To build better relationships; teach people how to treat you!

Click to Tweet

3. Where you will and won’t help


I regularly tell my coaching clients that there are two letters which will save them a great deal of time and stress when they put them in the right order. Of course, the right order is No. If you can’t say No to requests for help from others, then you are going to spend all your time and energy doing what others want you to do.

You were put on this Earth to live your own life to the best of your ability; not to live other people’s lives for them. It is great to help and I am certainly not telling you not to ever help people. But a lot of the times where others seek your help, they need help because they have gotten themselves into a mess by being lazy, making bad decisions or just not being organised. If you bail them out every time they mess up, they will never learn from their mistakes because they will never have to live with the consequences. Sometimes, letting them learn the lesson is the best help you can give them.

When it comes to helping others, you need to think of the airplane safety announcement where you are told that in case of emergency; you should put your own oxygen mask on before helping others (e.g. your child) with their mask. The reason for this is that you can only help people from a position of strength. If you are weak and you don’t put yourself first, you are likely to drag yourself into trouble rather than drag the other person out of trouble. In the airplane example, you could run out of oxygen before you can get the other person’s oxygen mask on meaning that both of you would die. Helping somebody out should never make your position worse.

The following are some examples of where I will not help others:

  • I just don't have the time
  • I have other commitments which are more important to me
  • They have gotten into the mess through their own laziness
  • If I am asked at the last minute
  • If I am treated badly
  • If it is just assumed that I am going to help
  • Where helping allows the other person to avoid dealing with an issue(s) which they need to deal with
  • Where they keep getting themselves into the same mess

Key Point

I am not talking about emergency situations here. I am talking about the friends, colleagues and family who repeatedly ask for favours (help) from you and expect you to drop everything to help them out.

You can improve your communication and relationship skills with my FREE Checklist - Do's and Don'ts of Dealing with Difficult People.

4. Your values


This is very important because your values are like your rules for life. By knowing your values and living true t them you will ensure that you are living your best life. Whether you know your values or not; it is important that you realise that you do have values.

When you live true to your values, you will find that your values communicate themselves to others. In addition, there is no harm in letting others know the values you hold dear. When people understand your values, you will find that they won’t ask you to do things which they know are against your values. If you were forced to do something illegal, I bet you could quickly think of some people you could ask to help and some you wouldn’t bother asking because you know they would say No. That’s a simple example of values communicating for you.

When people act in a way which contradicts your values, usually unintentionally, you are going to be annoyed. This can cloud your judgement of that other person. But is it fair to judge them for breaking your values when you never told them what your values are? When people whom you interact with regularly know your values, and you know theirs, it is much easier for everybody to get along and/or work together. It leads to a much happier situation where everyone feels respected.

Deal With Difficult People Handbook

If you are having to deal with difficult people and you want to start avoiding conflict, the 'Deal with Difficult People Handbook' will help you get on the right track..


If the same people keep treating you badly, it is easy to blame them. It is very tempting to absolve yourself of all responsibility. Unfortunately, if you choose that route, you are only deluding yourself. It takes two people to make a relationship so both parties are responsible for the state of that relationship. If somebody is not treating you as you would like to be treated, you need to change that. You teach people how to treat you so you need to determine what that person needs to learn and teach it to them. If you are unsure where to start, the 4 examples above will give you a starting point. From there, you can gauge your progress and make any adjustments necessary.


You may also like

Work slower to get better results

Work slower to get better results

Choose the short-term pain

Choose the short-term pain
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}