We’re taught to turn the other cheek—that being kind in the face of hostility is the better way to respond to conflict so love can overcome hate. According to psychologist Clifford N. Lazarus, writing for Psychology Today, that sort of reaction just teaches abusive people that their behavior is effective.
In my experience, this is very true. However, what this article doesn’t say is that once an abuser decides you’re a mark (based on how nice you are), anything you do will “provoke” abuse.
Ever since I figured out that being too nice makes you an abuse magnet, I’ve simply been up-front with unacceptable behaviour. I’m not unique in this, either. Boy, does that ever sort out the bad apples! Decent people respond by focusing on the behaviour and try to work with you on the issue. The ones you don’t want to stick around ignore you or launch very quickly into personal attacks–they take everything personally and can’t or won’t focus on solving the problem.
Remember, though, when you raise your red flag, to keep your mind on specific issues and not on personalities. Nothing gets better by making personal attacks, and they just demonstrate that you don’t want the problem solved. Hey, do you want things to work out, or do you just want to fight?