In the mental health field over the years I see and hear a lot of people’s concerns about self esteem. Of course my self esteem wasn’t always the greatest either. While speaking to some folks today about anger management, the topic of self esteem arose. This little lesson popped up in my mind that I’ll share.
Don’t accept second class behavior
Probably around 2004 I heard Eben Pagan say something like, “Don’t accept second class behavior from yourself or anyone else.” This is not an exact quote but close. This quote hit me like a ton of bricks or equally dense material. I had been too much of a “people pleaser” and it was not only was it not helping me, it was hurting me. Don’t get me wrong I truly enjoy helping other but people pleasing can be damaging. After thinking about this quote I realized that it was hurting my self esteem and allowing people to prey on my desire to help people.
Examples of second class behavior
There are many times when we may be a little nicer than we need to be and people take advantage of this. Sometimes they may not do it maliciously but just out of habit. People canceling on plans and not informing you, being late all the time to appointments, not calling when they say, etc… are all examples of second class behavior. The example that comes to mind for me was on a Friday night I was supposed to go out with this girl and she was going to call around 9 and we’d go out. Well 9pm comes and goes. I call and get no answer. Turns out that she didn’t call that night and since I didn’t really find out to late, it limited my plans that night. I live in a small town where they pretty much roll up the sidewalks at 9-10pm.
How should you react to this behavior?
So I thought about what happened that night and how I should handle it. Should I get angry and start arguing or yelling? What would that accomplish? Say I was right, how would that make her feel? Dale Carnegie discusses how no one wins an argument in “How to win friends and influence people.” Should I call and leave mean messages on her voicemail? Again, what would that accomplish? Should I cut contact until she calls me? Well in this case, she called the next day. I would imagine in this case that the person thinks A) I’ll pretend this didn’t happen and he’ll just accept it the way other people do or B) He’ll be mad and he’ll just have to get over it (I’m sure there were many others too…but for simplicity sake J ).
Use the quote
What I did was use the quote from Eben. I stated, “Look, I don’t accept second class behavior from myself or anyone else. I would rather never talk to you again than to accept this type of behavior.” Knowing me, I was probably wordier, but hopefully you get the idea. This worked well for a few reasons I believe. It shows a firm stance on your rules for yourself and others. It is very difficult to argue because you state that you don’t accept these rules from yourself either. How do you argue this? They can’t argue what you accept. You do or you do not. I threw the second sentence in there from my study of sales. It is a strong negotiation tactic to be able to walk away from the deal. This reminds me of another Eben phrase, “there is no downside.” In this case for me there was no downside. If that was an indication of how I would be treated, then it was not worth my time and effort.
What will the other person say or do?
Some people may be worried about how the other person will react to this. I was lucky in this case because I was at the point where it didn’t matter. If they wanted to treat me in a first class way then that was cool, if not then, “bye!” Instead of worrying about how they may react, write down some possible reactions. What is the worst that could happen? We already discussed that this would be a hard thing to argue because it’s what you accept from yourself and others. If you’ve accepted a lot of second class behavior in the past and have decided to change, let people know it. If it’s long time friend or family member try this. “I’ve decided to make some changes in my life and I will no longer accept second class behavior from myself or others.” The thing is with this that you MUST live your side of the statement as well. If you say you’ll call someone at 1:30pm then their phone needs to be ringing at 1:30pm (preferably with you on the other end).
Don’t worry; you don’t have to dress up like a police officer or a French maid for this part. In mental health I’ve learned how well role playing can help practice a skill before you have to use it in “the real world.” If you are worried about how this may play out on a conversation with a friend, coworker, associate, or member of the opposite sex, meet with someone you feel comfortable around and try it out. If you have fears write them down ahead of time. This can be what you consider to be the worse case scenario. You get you’re friend to be you and give them a script of what you’ll say. You bring up you’re worse case scenario if you feel like it. You could try your side out as well.
Ready for prime time
When you say this a few times you’ll feel more comfortable with it and realize that it is firm and direct but not mean. It just sets up the frame of which you operate. Another example to think of is this. If you have kids (or have seen kids or were a kid) you have noticed that there may be one parent that gives in a little more than the other. This will be the one that the kids ask first for candy or money. Well the one parent set up that frame that they don’t take much off the kids and that they are the authority in the house. Some homes it’s the mother some it’s the father, but it was set up pretty early on usually. I encourage you to try this and notice that it sets up the frame of what you accept and what you don’t. It should help boost you’re self esteem and get you treated with respect. Best of luck to you!