Why do others treat you badly even when you’ve been as nice as pie?
My friend, Liberty Forrest, shared her experience in her article below:
During my counseling/healing industry years, I’ve noticed that certain themes or issues come up more frequently than others.
One, in particular, arises with some regularity. It was an issue that I had in my own life for some time until I took a closer look at it.
I struggled with it and beat myself up about it for many years. Eventually, I decided that if it just wasn’t working, there must be something wrong with me.
And then the light went on.
I recently saw this issue come up with another client who was deeply upset. Despite her best efforts to be kind and respectful in a particular situation, she was treated pretty badly in return.
I could sense her bewilderment as she wondered why this had happened. There was a childlike innocence in the way she had been expecting that being nice to certain people would have got her the same in return.
As I looked into her eyes, I could see the sad and confused little girl on the other side of them, the wounded inner child who simply could not understand.
It was rather like seeing a child who had opened a lovely birthday present and found a toy she had wanted forever, only to discover that it was broken. She said, “I was minding The Golden Rule! I was being as nice as I could be, and I don’t understand why they treated me like this anyway!”
What I Could Have Said
The first point I could have raised would have been that understanding it doesn’t change that it happened. Even if someone has had a terrible day, perhaps just received awful news, for example, and rips your head off for no apparent reason, that person is still responsible for their actions.
And, of course, there is no way to undo them.
The next point I might have offered is that you don’t have any control over what other people do or don’t do. Honey may attract more flies than vinegar, but what if the fly prefers sour?
Ultimately, the fly gets to choose.
You can be as sweet as you like, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want or that you’ll be treated with the same respect as you are giving.
Here’s the Real Problem
To be honest, the biggest problem my client is having (along with millions of others who have had the same experience) is that she has misunderstood or misinterpreted The Golden Rule.
Look at what it says:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
It suggests that we treat people a particular way. Full stop.
But somewhere along the way, a whole other section has been added in our heads:
“And then people will do unto you as you did unto them.”
In reality, it says nothing at all about the other person’s actions. The focus is only on how we should conduct ourselves. Yet, for some reason, we seem to think that those words contain the promise of a pleasant reaction in all cases every time we’re nice to other people.
So we’re surprised or bewildered when it doesn’t go that way. We feel hurt and disappointed, and sometimes wonder what we did wrong. We wonder what we did to warrant such treatment.
But nowhere in The Golden Rule is anything that should lead us to the expectation that other people should behave in a particular way because of something we do or don’t do.
Why We Should Not Expect a Particular Response
If you think about it, it’s rather arrogant (and somewhat controlling or at least judgmental) of us to decide the correct way for someone else to behave in a given situation. It says, “You do not have the right to free will — but I do.” It says,” I made my own choice, but I am not letting you make
It is unreasonable to project your reactions, responses, and sensibilities onto others. It is a mistake to expect people to give you the same consideration, courtesy, and respect that you naturally give them because there will be many times in life that they won’t.
Do not slide into the comfortable illusion that everyone else will be as nice to you, or as kind or generous or anything else, as you have been to them. Accept that no matter how respectful you are to other people in the first place, they are free to be as rotten to you as they want. Be prepared for it, so you aren’t disappointed, hurt, or bewildered if and when it happens.
I’m not suggesting that you should expect them to be rotten. It’s just that it is unreasonable and unfair — to both you and the people on the other side of the equation — to have expectations of any kind. It also means you’re inviting disappointment, at the very least.
What Can You Do?
It’s great to do your best to be kind and respectful to other people, but be sure that you do not take it personally or feel crushed on those occasions when you don’t get the same in return.
The only person on the planet that you can truly control is yourself. You get to choose your actions and words. They are your responsibility; you must be accountable for what you say and do.
It is the same for everyone else. You have no control over the choices others make. And you would not want anyone else having control over yours.
As I always say, “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.” The moment you decide that your actions will result in a particular response, you set yourself up for failure. It’s the quickest way to find yourself asking that question: “I was so nice to them, so why did they treat me so badly in return?”
The Bottom Line
Hold true to your own values. Be in integrity with your principles and what matters most to you. Act from a place of love and kindness, no matter what is being presented to you.
And most importantly, let go of any particular desired outcome.
You have to live in your skin. You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know you’ve done your best and been your best.
Does that mean you have to be perfect?
Of course not.
You are human. You are inherently flawed, and your perfect imperfection makes you so beautiful. Our flaws and quirks connect us. They keep us humble. They remind us that everyone is on a journey of learning, trying to be and do better. They remind us to keep striving for our own improvement.
And we find solace in knowing that someone understands when we mess up because they’ve been there, too.
The point is to do the best you can. It is not to be the best in the world. It is not to be arrogant and think you are better than others. It is simply to be your best, not the best.
You have to live with the consequences of your actions.
Whatever others choose to do in response to them is their business. Not yours.
So it is best to continue living by The Golden Rule in its simplicity: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat them the way you would like to be treated.
At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Angel RIBO’s LinkedIn page.