Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We Teach Others How to Treat Us

            Once upon a time, I did a brief stint as a night-shift cab driver. Yes, I know, you'd never have believed it, wasn't I afraid, and did anyone ever try anything. It's true anyway, no, and twice but they failed. Anyway, one morning pre-dawn, I was returning the cab to the cage, and for whatever reason I wasn't in a great mood. I enjoyed the job, although not the hours so much, because I actually like driving, and especially when there's an Interceptor motor under the hood. And I'm usually very nice, even if I'm tired. But this just wasn't the morning for me to be nicely enjoying anything.
            When I walked in, some guy was sitting there sizing me up. I didn't know him, but I know the type - scungy eewww but thinks he's God's gift to women. And I knew that if I didn't shut him down, hard and immediately, he'd forever be a pain in the rear. I ignored him and conducted my business with the cashier, who gave me a warning glance at Mr. Wannabe Bad-Boy. When I was done, I turned to walk out. Hot Stuff couldn't believe I was immune to his charms and called out, "Hey, who are you?" I answered, very truthfully, "I am one of two female night-shift drivers. The other carries a .57. I don't need to. I am no one to be trifled with." And I walked out.

We teach others how to treat us. (Seems like a fitting concept for Independence Day.)

It's not a new concept. It's one practical application of the Golden Rule, which is known universally with only slight variations. It goes beyond just treating others the way we expect to be treated, though.

How do we do it? Mostly by making sure our actions back up our words. Walking the talk. 

It's easiest to explain by example:
  • If a tween girl chooses to allow herself to be put in the middle of tween-girl-drama between two friends, she's teaching them that she's okay with that position. On the other hand, if she tells them to leave her out of it, and removes herself from the drama, she's teaching them not to try to drag her into it.
  • If a young man stays in a relationship with a young woman who belittles him and flirts with his friends, he teaches her it's acceptable behavior.
  • If Mumsy always picks up Dad's shoes from the middle of the floor, she's teaching him that it's fine to leave them there. If she places them in the middle of his path from the bed to the bathroom where he'll trip over them in the middle of the night, she's teaching him that it's best if he finds an out-of-the-way place for them.
  • If a man can't gracefully accept a compliment and goes out of the way to avoid attention, he teaches others that he's not worth their attention.
  • If your best friend dodges your calls and has various reasons why he/she isn't available for three weeks at a time, and you accept that, you teach your friend that the lack of commitment and availability is fine. But if you call him/her on the avoidance behavior and indicate that you can't be friends with a ghost, you teach that you expect mutual effort in friendship.
  • Creepy examples: if a girl tells a guy she's not interested, but keeps flirting, she teaches him that what she says is meaningless. If she tells him she never wants to speak to him again, and he keeps calling, and finally on the 27th call she answers, she teaches him that "never" means a few pestering calls later.  
And so on. And by extension, we reinforce the lessons to ourselves. We teach ourselves how to treat ourselves - either nicely, or not. Which is where it all starts, anyway. Nobody will take you seriously until you take yourself seriously. Whatever it is you want, your task is to show the world that you're worthy of it. If you don't really want it, or really believe you deserve it, people will see through the act.

Your assignment today is to consider your own independence. You have the freedom to declare how you want to be treated ... so how do you want to be treated? Ponder that, and then walk the talk, baby! And if you need a coach to help you, you know how to reach me. 


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