You Set the Standard for How People Treat You

Written by on March 11, 2019 in Self-Care

You Set the Standard

Whether by default or design, each day you set the standard for how other people treat you.

You may not be consciously aware of this, most of us aren’t, but nevertheless, the standards you have established serve as guidelines for all sorts of situations in your life.

If for whatever reason, you’ve never given much thought to standards or done the work to set personal boundaries it’s understandable that you might be more than a little skeptical about this declaration.

In fact, this may come as quite a surprise, but whether or not you’ve intentionally defined standards for what is (or is not) acceptable in your life, you nevertheless have them and they are communicated to the world around you on a regular basis.

Maybe you pride yourself on maintaining a clean home. This represents an important standard of living for you.

Then to leave a bed unmade or dirty dishes in the sink are examples that cross established boundary lines and qualify as unacceptable behavior.

For another example say you have a friend who has repeatedly let you down. They are always late, fail to follow through and on more than one occasion have shared with others something you told them in confidence.

You’ve argued, threatened, and pleaded, but nothing has changed, including the fact that you still allow this person to be a part of your life.

You’ve shown them, as well as everyone who knows you, that no matter how they treat you, you won’t walk away.

So, why should they pay attention to your demands to alter their behavior?

If you take nothing else from this article, please remember this …

You Set the Standard

It is human nature to focus on the poor behavior of other people for our problems, so the point needs to be made that teaching people how to treat you, begins with you, not them.

The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others.

Always putting the interests and well-being of others first may make you feel noble and wanted, but it teaches the people in your life that your needs aren’t as important as their own.

And they will treat them (and you) that way for as long as you tolerate it.

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar?

  • You say yes even when you really want to say no.
  • You feel guilty when you do say no.
  • You do whatever it takes to avoid confrontation and keep the peace, even if it means violating your own values.
  • You consistently prioritize the needs of others over your own.
  • You don’t set aside time for yourself because it feels selfish.
  • You don’t stand up for yourself when someone belittles or mistreats you.
  • You allow people to say or do things to you that make you uncomfortable.

If you want to generate change that is meaningful and sustainable, you need to begin gradually setting healthy personal boundaries to give you space and the freedom you need to build the life you long to live.

Following is a list of simple tips and strategies to guide you in this process.

Tips to Set Healthy Personal Boundaries

First, a cautionary word about attitude.

Occasionally someone will reach a tipping point after having been taken advantage of and end up building a wall around themselves out of rage and resentment rather than setting healthy guidelines from a place of emotional centeredness.

Please keep in mind that the intention of personal boundaries is not to shut people out, just the opposite. The goal is to build stronger relationships by teaching others how to be with you in a healthy and mutually beneficial way.

Believe You Have Rights

If you’ve spent a lifetime putting the needs of others ahead of your own, it may take some time to accept that your wants and needs are legitimate.

You have the right to your own thoughts, values, and beliefs. You have every right to tell anyone who is hurting, abusing or disrespecting you to stop.

You have the right to love, respect and stand up for yourself and to have relationships that feel good and are based on mutual respect.

Define Your Limits

You can’t teach people how to treat you if you haven’t taken the time to clarify your limitations for various circumstances or whether certain behaviors feel nourishing or destructive.

Don’t stress over trying to define standards for every little thing in your life.

Focus on the important areas and gradually identify physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits that will give you the space you need to thrive.

Understand Your Responsibilities

You are responsible for communicating your request clearly and respectfully, but you are NOT accountable for how others receive or interpret it, nor for how they feel as a result.

Start small by identifying just one situation or behavior you would like to change, ideally, one where you are likely to experience little resistance.

This will enable you to get a feel for what it is like to define and communicate your request and as you gain confidence in your ability to set more challenging boundaries.

Decide on Consequences

Create a plan of action for what will happen when your boundaries are crossed. It’s best to do this at the time you define your boundary so that you are prepared to communicate clearly what choices you will need to make in order to honor the boundaries you’ve set.

Be sure to compassionately let people know when you feel your boundaries are not being respected (most people will mean no harm, and may simply be unaware of the impact their behavior is having on you).

Don’t Explain or Justifying Your Boundaries

Really. Stop talking about them. Boundaries aren’t complicated – it’s the fear of setting and enforcing them that people use to make the process complicated.

They are natural and a necessary part of life, but when we first become aware of them there is a tendency to obsess over the details and what could go wrong and so we overcompensate and this not only creates unnecessary stress, it causes people to tune you out.

Dealing with Difficult People

There is no reason to put up with someone who is difficult and refuses to honor your boundaries if you don’t have to, so … don’t. Yes, just like that.

On the other hand, family, work, school, and social groups put people together who would otherwise never associate. Once it becomes clear that a person you cannot separate yourself from is difficult, do your best to limit your time with them.

This does not mean don’t bother to set boundaries with this person.

You might just be surprised at what clearly communicating your needs, patience, consistency and a measure of compassion can accomplish, even with the most demanding individual!

Create a System of Accountability

Some people swear by “accountability partners” or teams for goal work.

Whether or not you work with someone else in this process, I strongly recommend using a journal because this is an excellent way to document the details of your progress, identify what worked and what didn’t, and how you might adjust your approach in the future.

Expect Challenges and Missteps

There are going to be people who test your efforts and a few who will outright ignore your requests.

Before assuming the other person is disrespecting your boundary, step back and be brutally honest with yourself about how you communicated your request in the first place. Were you clear, or was your request left vague in the hope they would just somehow get it so you could avoid the discomfort of being up front?

Identify the preferred behavior and see if you can determine the circumstance that led to your boundary being crossed in order to avoid repeating the behavior in the future.

The important thing is not to let it continue because they will see it as a sign you don’t take your own boundary seriously. This is where you need to have clearly defined consequences and be prepared to follow through.

Expect to Feel Some “Unearned” Guilt

If expressing your needs and standing up for your rights is new to you there’s a pretty good chance that at some point you will experience some self-doubt and a dose of “unearned” guilt.

These feelings are common, perfectly normal and not the truth.

Your relationship with yourself sets the standard for every other relationship you have. Honor and respect yourself, you are teaching others how you expect them to treat you.

Closing Thoughts

Taking responsibility for defining the life you want to live and teaching others what is acceptable behavior toward you is the ultimate exercise in self-mastery.

It’s about living your life with full intention; making smart choices and exercising your personal power and authority to achieve greater freedom, happiness, and long-term life satisfaction.

In the beginning, it’s going to be tempting to revert to old behaviors, but keep reminding yourself that there’s a big difference between being accommodating and not respecting yourself.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing the two.

Related reading:
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.

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