How To Train People To Treat You With Respect

Clare’s the owner of a sportswear design firm (names changed). In her late twenties, she’s bright, driven, has accomplished much and yet she doubts herself. That’s why she hired Madge as her assistant. Madge has been in the biz for almost thirty years and knows all the players.

As it turns out, Madge sees Clare as inexperienced and privileged (she told her so to her face). Madge jabs at Clare’s insecurities with surgical precision.

Clare believes she can’t run the business without this woman’s know-how and is afraid to upset Madge – what if she quits?

Whenever Clare has tried to speak with Madge so as to make needed adjustments in their relationship, Madge inevitably breaks down and cries. Clare panics and caves in.

Knowingly and unknowingly, we give people permission to treat us in certain ways.  Over time those ways become a routine. If we don’t like the way a person is treating us, then it’s our responsibility to “re-train” them. 

Although Madge is in her fifties, she reminds me of my niece Gracie when she was four years old.  I adore Gracie – she’s bright, beautiful and what I call a “phony-baloney.”

At four, Gracie knew how to flash that cute smile of hers so as to get what she wanted. On one visit, her mother had an emergency and asked if I could watch Gracie.

As soon as her mom left, Gracie asked me for ice cream. Usually I was a sucker for this kind of request, but her mother had given me strict orders – no sweets! And so I said “no.”

Gracie pleaded until she finally burst into tears that looked a tad “rehearsed!”  The girl wouldn’t stop, blackmailing me with, “if you loved me. . .”

Her crying was killing me.

And so, I lifted her up, carried her out to the deck and gently put her down. With a big smile and gentle tone, I said, “Gracie, I love you, but your crying is driving me bonkers. So, I’m going to let you cry out here and when you’re done, just come back inside. Okay?”

She looked at me like I was nuts!

I went back into the house and within moments, Gracie ran inside.  She was laughing and wanted to watch a video. Not a peep about ice cream.

What happened?

I did something she wasn’t expecting and hadn’t prepared for.

I changed the dance step. I retrained her.

Clare needed to treat Madge like a four-year old. I urged Clare to say something along these lines when Madge next cried: “Madge, clearly you’re upset. I know you want what’s best for the company and me as I do for you. This conversation is important to both of us, so why don’t you take some time to compose yourself and we can talk later.”

When Clare tried out this new script, Madge resisted as the tears kept pouring.  Clare repeated the script three times before Madge stopped crying. She became Gracie! Later that same day they had a conversation without the special effects of tears.

Is everything “fine” with Clare and Madge?  No. However, they’re now having conversations that they didn’t have before. Madge is learning that her old ploys no longer work.

We train people how to treat us.

Is there someone in your life who needs retraining?

I help people find their voice, showing professionals how to communicate in smart, healthy ways so as to develop successful relationships. 

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