4 min read

Saying No to Mistreatment

Develop a picture in your head of what a life without mistreatment looks like. How is it showing up for you now? How can it look instead?
Saying No to Mistreatment
Photo by Andrew Moca / Unsplash

I'll never forget this TED Talk I watched where this guy said he just decided one day he wasn't going to argue anymore.

And he spouted some outrageous number of years it'd been since he'd argued with his wife.

Something like 10 years. Maybe more.

I was like, "What? This guy is lying."

He made it sound so simple I didn't get it. It couldn't be possible.

And it might not be. He still could be lying.

But I'll tell you this, I believed it enough to give it a shot and I'm glad I did.

Because several years later, mistreatment isn't a characteristic of my life and relationships anymore.

And while arguments and tense discussions happen. Disagreements happen. Frustration & being annoyed happens.

They happen respectfully or we cut them off.

Blow out arguments? Don't happen.

Name-calling? Doesn't happen.

Intentionally insulting someone as a defense mechanism? Doesn't happen.

Seeking to punish people to teach them a lesson? Nope.

I don't find myself mistreating the people I care about.

And I don't find them mistreating me.

It is hard. And no one is perfect.

But it is possible to feel mistreatment & abuse basically dissipate from your life, by choosing to no longer allow it.

I think those of us who grow up feeling stuck in environments rife with mistreatment that we can't escape eventually grow into adults who have that same felt-sense of stuck-ness...

If someone's on the attack, we feel threatened, we have to get defensive.

We have to attack back.

We have to do something. We have to participate.

It's hard to imagine that we can just.... say no.

Even though we really can just say no, now.

So here's the suggestion:

Practice saying no to mistreatment from yourself, and from others.

If anyone in a difficult conversation rises above a 4, practice saying, "I'm not continuing this until we can address it calmly."

If your roommate or S.O. comes home in a snippy mood that has nothing to do with you, practice giving them some space to decompress from their stressful day instead of taking it personally.

Practice filling your evening with something generative for you, instead. Their feelings are for them unless they ask for support or an ear.

Practice telling them you know it's not personal and they've had a rough day, but you won't be engaging with them until they can do so respectfully.

Practice assuming their shit isn't about you unless they explicitly tell you it is.

Practice minding your business & not trying to fix it. YOU do not need to fix everything. They are capable adults. They can fix their stuff. Respect them enough to let them.

Practice giving people permission to be in a bad mood around you as long as they're not taking it out on you.

Practice knowing the difference.

When they say, "sorry I'm yelling" in the middle of a venting session, practice saying "No you're good I know it's not about me. Yell if you need to."

Practice holding space without taking it personally when it isn't personal.

Practice disengaging with the person or people who choose passive-aggressive behavior as a default setting.

Practice playing dumb. Practice letting hints go right over your head until they figure out how to speak on it.

Practice holding your joy through these moments. Their feelings are for them. Not you. You have your own stuff to worry about.

Practice remembering that you don't have to participate.

Practice walking away even when it IS about you, but they're not communicating in a way that feels safe.

Practice finding something else to do until they can communicate it in a healthy way.

Practice letting them figure out how to fulfill their role in that. You don't have to teach anyone how to have a better attitude in your direction. You just need to teach them they don't get to access you with a bad attitude.

Practice intolerance for mistreatment from others - and from yourself.

Practice creating space for yourself, so you can feel and process your feelings and experiences without punishing others in the process.

Mistreatment is a two-way street.

Practice advocating for yourself without attacking, accusing, or otherwise being shitty to someone else. What does that look like?

Practice not rising above a 4.

Practice letting people know, "this energy isn't for you. I'm frustrated with something else" and easing your treatment of them.

Practice delivering accountability with compassion instead of spite, insults, blame, and judgment.

Ultimately, develop a picture in your head of what a life without mistreatment looks like.

How is it showing up for you now?

How can it look instead?

How can you have hard conversations without mistreatment?

How can you have disagreements without mistreatment?

How can you and your loved ones be entitled to your shitty moods without mistreatment?

What does that look like, to you?

Moving forward, this is the picture you paint.

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