Why the psychology of 'train people how to treat you' is actually damaging
March 30, 2016 at 10:30 am
“You either teach people to treat you with dignity and respect, or you don’t. This means you are partly responsible for the mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else. You shape others’ behavior when you teach them what they can get away with and what they cannot” – Dr. Phil
When did this philosophy become a thing?
After reading a great article about old-fashioned dating, I’ve been thinking a lot about this sentiment. I kind of see the point people are trying to get across when they say “train people how to treat you.” But quite frankly, I think it’s a load of bull. The more I think about it, the firmer my stance becomes.
You see, the onus of teaching people how to treat others should not fall on the person being approached; it should fall on the approacher. Think about it this way:
Say that while walking home one evening, you get jumped. Would you say that you, the person who was jumped, are responsible for explaining and/or showing the person who jumped you that what they did was wrong?
No! That would be ridiculous. You learned as a kid (or somewhere else along the way) from parents, aunties, teachers or other influential figures that it’s wrong to violently rob someone. You would expect that the person who jumped you knows that, too.
Another example: I went on Tinder last month, and I matched with a cute guy. We chatted a bit, had some general small talk, and maybe even flirted a little. Then, out of absolutely nowhere, there’s a d*ck pic in my inbox. What-how-why? I didn’t ask for that.
In this instance, I was treating this dude pretty nicely because all we’d ever had was the polite conversation of strangers. So at what point did I train this man to treat me poorly, which in this case was him sending me a photo of his genitals?
One more example to really drive the point home: Let’s say a child is raised in a home with an abusive parent. There is no way a young child would be held in some way responsible for the mistreatment they receive at the hands of their parent. How does the responsibility fall on the child for shaping their parents’ poor behavior?
Can’t explain it? That’s because it doesn’t work that way. That’s why the Department of Child Services exists, to intervene in situations in which children have no control over their mistreatment.
Yes, that’s extreme, but I hope you see where I’m going. A person should be able to (or should learn to) recognize when something is a wrong or inappropriate way to approach and/or treat someone. It is not your responsibility to teach a person how to behave appropriately – it’s theirs.
You would never hold a murder victim responsible for the behavior of their murderer. Murder is wrong, and each individual person is expected to know that and behave accordingly. So why is it that we tolerate the “train people how to treat you” sentiment in our relationships?
It’s statements like this that have contributed to victim-blaming, rape culture and plain old lack of empathy.
Saying “stand up for yourself” is different than saying “train people how to treat you.” If the point you want to make is standing up for yourself, then say that. If what you mean is “don’t get pushed around,” then find a way to explain that. If you intend to say “call people out on their bullsh*t,” then express that. But don’t say “train people people how to treat you” because it’s a statement that, once again, absolves others of their responsibility for learning how to treat people appropriately and places the onus onto the people who are being treated poorly.
As the author of this piece so cleverly explains, it’s not the duty of women to teach men how to behave in heterosexual dating scenarios (or otherwise). Men need to smarten up and hold themselves and each other accountable for their poor behavior.
Here’s my alternative: Surround yourself exclusively with people who have the wherewithal to respect you, love you wholeheartedly and know how to treat others with respect. If they don’t, cut them out of your life. It might be a slow, painstaking process or it might be easier said than done. It’s taken years for me to tackle this.
There is no “training.” Either learn to respect me, or leave.
You might be angry or even disagree. But that’s ok with me, because someone needs to say this: It’s time that we begin thinking more critically about the way we say things and the lasting impact they have on our culture.
For more on this topic, check out Joel Leon’s Ten Whack Commandments.