I have sat back and wondered at times what it is that makes some people become victims and some people be bullies, and some bystanders, and how this can be changed or redirected.
In some circumstances, I see very clearly a case of, “You created this situation, and you have the power to change it.” I see people (myself included) teaching others that it is alright to treat them badly, or disrespectfully.
As a teacher (sorry, another teaching analogy) my colleagues have asked me how I can “get” students to behave in a respectful and courteous manner for the duration of my class, and yet the same students can be rude and belligerent at other times. The simple (and somewhat deceptive) answer is that I won’t allow misbehaviour!
In more detail though, I will NOT allow people to treat me with disrespect and I teach them otherwise. I very clearly set boundaries for the students in my classroom and explicitly teach them where those boundaries are and how to tell that they are about to test them. I teach them my body language, my tone of voice and my expectations. I tell students, “If I am standing there, with one hand on my hip, one eyebrow arched and no expression on my face, you need to stop whatever you are doing and listen, because this means I am about to be very cranky at you.” They know and can predict my response to any behaviour, because I have taught it to them. I also (and this is most important) evenly, fairly and consistently apply a consequence when the boundary lines are crossed! If a student has ignored the clear warning signs they are being given, then a consequence applies. The same one for every student, every time they cross the same boundary point. Within a very short space of time, the students are self correcting their tone of voice, their language and their actions to suit what I have explicitly taught them is correct protocol, with only one word or gesture from me. The most “dangerous” word my students hear is, “Really?”….smile, they know this word is the precursor to severe consequences. Very effective.
The point of this story? You teach people how to treat you!
I am not suggesting (obviously) that you keep your friends in for detention…smile… Simply that by allowing, or disallowing certain behaviours towards you, you are teaching people what you will and won’t accept.
I choose not to give a single moment of my time to people who consistently treat me with little or no regard. That’s my consequence for them. I am not at all shy in telling someone I feel their actions towards me are unacceptable, although I do try to tell them with love and kindness as much as possible.
YOU teach people how to treat you.
So if you have inadvertently “told” someone it is OK to use you, speak harshly to you, disrespect you in any way…love yourself enough to reteach them that this is definitely NOT OK. If they cannot or will not be taught, then apply a consequence and remove yourself from their company.