“I cannot conceive of a greater loss than the loss of one’s self-respect.” —Mahatma Gandhi
You either teach people to treat you with respect or you don’t. Period. It’s that simple. What I’m saying here is that you are partly responsible for the mistreatment you get from others.
The law of effect is a principle that was first published in 1905 by Edward Thorndike. What this principle basically says is that if a response to a certain situation or act is good, the situation or act is most likely to be repeated. Say, for example, Michael is married to Sue.
Sue is very short tempered and domineering. One morning, Michael and Sue get into a huge argument before leaving for work. Once at work, Michael decides that although he does not appreciate his wife’s abusive ways, he is going to send her flowers. His feeling is that by doing this she will realize how much he loves her and hopefully stop being abusive.
By doing this, however, Michael did just the opposite. Since he is now rewarding his wife (flowers) for her negative behavior, why should she stop? By putting up with his wife’s behavior, he is sending the message that it is OK to treat him this way. What we allow in our life will continue until we stop it. Being nice to someone does not take away the bad act, yet we all fall victim to this way of thinking time and time again.
It doesn’t matter how much time you have vested in a relationship, whether it be a family member, spouse or friend, you have the right to change the grounds in your relationship. How many times have you kept quiet about a certain situation because you were afraid to stir up bad feelings? How many times have you kept quiet when you really wanted to scream from the top of your lungs? How many times have you smiled in response when you really wanted to frown?
What some don’t realize is that by not saying anything and keeping how you really feel bottled up inside, you are not hurting anyone else but yourself. Believe me when I tell you that I have fell victim to this many times. In fact, I have learned some difficult lessons over the past two months. Some of my personal experiences have caused me to re-evaluate my life and take a very hard look at the many people in it. I’ve realized that I’ve been wasting so much time trying to please people who really have no intention of ever pleasing or respecting me.
Doing what I call a “me check” is not always an easy thing to do because it forces us to recognize things about ourselves we may not want to see. Likewise, it also forces us to see things about others we may not be ready to admit. But if we are not honest with ourselves, no one else will be honest with us. The fact is if we want people to treat us right, we have to command it.
How do we do that? Here are some suggestions:
1. Do not encourage negative behavior. For example, don’t smile when someone says something that you find offensive. Don’t laugh at something you don’t find funny.
2. In my book, Make Up Your Mind to Be Happy, I talk about what I call “soul suckers.” These are the people who bring you down and never have anything nice to say. Weed out the soul suckers in your life and surround yourself with positive people.
3. Don’t lie and say everything is OK when it really isn’t. Say how you really feel. If you don’t, it will reveal itself in other ways.
4. Not only do you have to be honest with others, but you also have to be honest with yourself. As I mentioned before, do a “me check” and ask yourself some tough questions. What do you really want in life? Who are the people in your life that really matter? Who are the ones you are holding onto out of self-proclaimed guilt?
5. Know when to say, “NO!” People who don’t really care about you and just want what you can offer them will go away. And the people who truly care about you will understand and stick around. It really is amazing how quickly you will see someone’s true motives just by saying this one powerful word.
6. Remember that actions speak louder than words. If someone keeps apologizing but not changing their ways, it’s time to recognize the relationship for what it really is.
7. Don’t try to change others. You can’t change people but you can change how you react to them.
There is a well-known Bible verse in which Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Many people think that the word meek implies weakness. But I don’t believe it’s about being weak but rather about being gentle, kind and good-hearted. Standing your ground does not mean you are a bad person. Rather it means that you are a good person who expects the same from others.
When things go wrong in life, it’s common for some to look outside for a solution to the problem. But the first place you should look is inside. Remember, what you allow will continue in your life. What you don’t allow, won’t.