For my inaugural blog, I felt it appropriate to share one of the simplest yet most effective pieces of advice I have ever been given:
I thought it might help if we started by considering the last time that:
- a partner was particularly inconsiderate?
- a friend did not treat with you the same level of respect that you show to them?
- a member of your family took you for granted?
- a colleague, boss or client treated you badly?
I’m thinking that there’s a good chance that it wasn’t that long ago, and maybe even happens all the bloody time!
People, can of course have a bad day, and might behave out of character on occasion. But we also know that people can develop a pattern of inappropriate behaviour, that can lead to regular and ongoing feelings of anger or frustration etc…
So, the question begs, what do we do?
My nugget of wisdom goes something like this:
I was in my late 20s, and I was really struggling to manage one of my client relationships.
A key stakeholder at a very important and lucrative client was treating me poorly, which left me feeling incredibly disrespected and demotivated.
The client in question never showed any appreciation for the consistently good work I did do, and instead demonstrated a disproportionate negative reaction (aka he cracked the shits bigtime!) to the small number of instances where the outcome was not what he wanted / expected , even when his expectations were completely unreasonable, totally ridiculous even! Jeez, I’m getting a bit arky recalling these memories, he really was an arsehole unfortunate person to have to work with.
His overt tones of disdain had really started to bother me, which made me question my capabilities and also affect my self confidence. So, one night, over a few beers I shared my tale of anger and frustration in a no doubt melodramatic fashion to my husband’s cousin.
Her answer was very direct and very simple: people treat you how you let them.
For the sake of clarity, in this moment I was being told that I was responsible (at least in part) for his behaviour, as I was allowing it, and in turn, enabling it. WTAF!
I’m not sure what part bothered me more, the assertion that I had helped create this situation, or the fact that she was absolutely right.
I quickly realised that I was going to have to confront the behaviour, and re-jig the relationship dynamic to one that was mutually respectful.
I felt like my best option was to wait for the right time, a time when a clear example of poor behaviour occured, so that I could address it in that moment. It then took some weeks for the opportunity to present itself, but when it did, I knew this was my moment to change things up.
Would you like to know what happened ,and what I did? Ok then….
I was at a cocktail party being hosted by the client, and I was happily quaffing on good quality bubbles and eating delicious little canapes (yeah, tough life I know). That’s when it happened….wait for it…….a canape of crispbed bread, smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill broke in my hand, and a blob of creme fraiche fell onto my arm. Shock horror I hear you say, not!
I tried to discreetly wipe it away before anyone noticed, as anyone in polite company would do, but I didn’t get the chance before my not so nice client contact decided to ridicule me regarding my minor creme fraiche accident in front of my colleagues and other client contacts. Again, WTAF! Although I felt that this behavior reflected much more poorly on him than it did on me, I decided that it was the opportunity I’d been looking for.
A short time later I called him aside for a discreet one on one chat, and explained to him how embarrassed I had been at the canape incident. I then springboarded from this scenario to provide additional examples of when I had felt similarly embarrassed, or disrespected.
What can I say? He was absolutely bloody mortified. As he should have been.
From that day on things were different, things were better. He started to give positive feedback, and was much more professional when discussing a concern. #winning!
Since then, I have lost count of the number of times I have considered this advice in relation to other relationship based issues I have encountered, both personal and professional. I also could not tell you how often I have shared this piece of advice to others who have similarly been struggling with conflict in some form or another, where it prompted a real lightbulb moment.
It truly is an undeniable fact: people do treat you how you let them.
Whether your issue is with your boss, your colleague, your partner, or whomever, it is also an undisputable fact that you have the power to change your circumstances. Whether you choose to confront the matter, or walk away entirely, you do have options.
I hope you have enjoyed this tale of woe with a happy ending. I would love to hear from you if you can relate, and if you have your own stories to share. Please comment below or send me a message.