246. We train people how to treat us.

Last week we discussed how all behavior leads to a consequence and how, therefore, by choosing our behavior we automatically choose the consequence that follows it.

This past week I received several calls from people who wanted to share their views on this topic and discuss the importance of taking full responsibility and ownership for our actions.

Listening to them reminded me of another maxim that we can all benefit by remembering:

People treat us the way we train them to treat us.

One of the conversations was with a lady who described in detail her ongoing struggle with two colleagues in her office.

One of her colleagues had developed the habit of repeatedly “borrowing” items like staplers, scissors, pens and tape from this lady’s workstation and never returning them, causing her to have to go in search for these objects when next she needed them.

The other colleague was, according to her, simply a bully who ordered her around, demeaned and criticized her publicly and had, on more than one occasion, reduced her to tears.

She said that while reading my blog last week a “light had gone on” in her head as she realized her behavior – saying and doing nothing – was a major contributor to how these two coworkers were treating her.

She quickly learned that the absence of information to the contrary is a form of positive reinforcement and the consequence of her silence served to make their behavior acceptable to them.

Positive reinforcement means giving people get what they want, and when we get what we want we tend to repeat the very behavior that got it for us.

She told me she is naturally conflict averse and goes out of her way to avoid it. She also realized that until she addressed her colleague’s behavior with them she would continue to be the enabler of their behavior.

She sat down with the “borrower” and explained her dissatisfaction and frustration with his actions. To his surprise he apologized profusely and explained he didn’t think she minded him doing this as she had not said anything. He agreed to never take anything off her desk without her permission.

Emboldened by his response she invited the office bully for coffee. This chat did not go as well as the first one but she stood her ground and outlined clearly what the consequences would be should the bullying continue.

She summed up the meeting this way.“My heart was pounding, I felt terrified but I did not flinch from my plan. She initially laughed at me, then threatened me and then, when she finally realized that I was not about to back down and that the consequences of her continued behavior were not idle threats but absolute assurances, she did what all bullies do, she backed down and slunk away like a balloon that had just been pricked.”

And for the past two days the only exchanges between the two of them had been polite “good morning” greetings.

When a person treats us in a way that we disapprove of and we choose to do nothing, we are training them to repeat that very behavior again and again.

People treat us the way we train them to treat us.

A powerful lesson and one from which can all benefit.

Till we read again.

P.S.My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Set Free the Champion Within. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure

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