Treat Me Well

There’s a dirty little secret that not enough people understand. We teach people how to treat us. It’s up to us to reward people when they treat us well. When they treat us badly, it’s our responsibility to make sure they feel a negative consequence. This is not always easy. The following is a plan to consider.

BE AWARE THAT YOU HAVE A PROBLEM that needs to be addressed. It is not always easy to recognize that a problem exists. Listen to your mind and your body. Identify the symptoms of stress.

  • Difficulty sleeping because your mind is thinking about a particular situation.
  • Disturbing dreams. You wake up tired.
  • Feeling agitated and cannot understand why.
  • Drinking, eating, crying, laughing, isolating yourself too much.
  • Feeling discouraged.
  • Looking for a magical cure to the problem.
  • Procrastinating. Thinking that if you ignore it, it will go away or not wanting to think about it at all.
  • Discussing your problem or your feelings over and over again with someone or everyone you know, looking for a solution.

These are ways to recognize that something is bothering you. It’s often difficult to know that you are unhappy. The sooner you realize you are under stress, the sooner you can do something about it.

EXPLAIN THE SITUATION EARLY. If you wait too long to address the situation, you will be so upset that you may do something drastic. You become reactive. You owe it to the other person to give him an opportunity to change or fix the problem or meet your need.


  • You are afraid of rejection.
  • You are afraid of being fired.
  • You are afraid of getting too emotional.
  • You are afraid you will be ignored.
  • You are afraid you will find out that you are unimportant.
  • You are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.
  • You are afraid that somehow you will have to pay with physical or emotional abuse.

These are all legitimate fears. However, life will not get better until you change the situation. Explain to the person how the behavior or words are affecting you and offer a solution to your problem.

Example: “I feel like you aren’t listening to what I’m saying. If you comment on what I’m saying, then I’ll know you’re listening. Please understand that this is important to me.”

If it is a work-related issue, follow the chain of command. If documentation is needed, provide it. If someone is harassing you, be sure to document everything from the beginning. Show that you are not being extreme in your complaint.

If it is a personal situation, approach the other person in love, not anger.

“The only way to speak the truth is to speak lovingly.” ― Henry David Thoreau

EXPLAIN THE EFFECT THE BEHAVIOR HAS OR WORDS HAVE ON YOU. You are upset. You cannot concentrate on your work. You are disappointed in your marriage, in your spouse. You are not sure what you want to do, but you are taking this problem seriously and want the other person to do the same. You are unhappy.

Example: “When you do not spend time with me, it makes me feel like I’m unimportant to you.”

This will give you some idea of how important your happiness is to the other person. You may have to word your complaint differently. Start out quietly and politely. If the person does not realize how serious you are, become stronger and more direct. If your partner refuses to take you seriously or does not care, you have a different problem.

 See Determine if You Are Too Blunt or Too Polite, page 116.

EXPLAIN THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT CHANGING. Consider what you will do if things do not change. Do not use consequences like a hammer with which to hit someone. When you threaten or nag a person without a consequence, when you don’t follow through, you teach him to stop listening to you. He will ignore you, not take you seriously. If you have made threats before and not carried them out, you will not be able to convince the person you mean what you say this time.

Example: “If you do consider me unimportant, then I need to think about whether this relationship is right for me. I need someone who considers me important enough to spend time with me. I need to give this relationship some serious thought.”

If the problem is work-related, start looking for another job before saying anything. Then, you will be ready for anything. When you do speak to your boss, you can do it with conviction.

Do not mention that you are looking for a job.

If you are willing to leave the marriage, the friendship or the job, explain calmly what will happen if things do not change. You may say that you want time away from each other so you can consider your options. Your reaction does not have to be all or nothing. If the person is agreeable to listen to your side, be ready to compromise a little. Be open to suggestions.

FOLLOW THROUGH WITH YOUR WARNING. You have explained your need. You have shown that you are upset and ready to do something about it. Now it’s time to take action. If the other person doesn’t choose to understand your situation and to help work out a solution, you cannot continue this way. Follow through with your consequences.

Frequently, the problem is not life changing. It may only need to be addressed. The sooner you say something, the sooner the other person has the opportunity to do something about it. If you wait too long, you have deprived him of a chance. This is unfair. If you complain continually, he turns you off because he doesn’t know what is serious and what is trivial.

You can teach people to treat you well. It takes knowing what you want and asking for it. It takes requiring and following through with a consequence to get people to treat you well.


  • Is there someone who you want to talk to about his or her behavior toward you?
  • What behavior do you want changed from this person?
  • Are there consequences you are willing to consider and discuss?
  • Are you willing to follow through with the consequences?
  • What will you say?
  • When will you say it?

By B. Eddy

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