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How to Engender Respect

Here is a common question that I receive: “Dave, what can I do to get other people to respect me?” It may be their boss, employees, spouse, customers, vendors, or even themselves!


The short answer is if you want to get respect, give it. It’s called the law of reciprocity. What you sow, you reap. Respect is something that you can choose to give or withhold. You can’t force or demand it from another person; however, you can choose to respect them. Herein lies the key to engendering someone’s respect for you. When you choose to sincerely respect them first, they will typically return respect to you.


How does this look in practical terms? Answer this question. When do you usually feel respected by others? For me, it is when they demonstrate a sincere interest in me. They care. It happens when they give me their undivided attention and listen deeply. It is the way they listen; intensely, but with acceptance, openness and a sincere desire to understand my situation and my point of view. I feel most respected when they just want to understand where I am coming from and withhold their criticism and judgement.


How do you feel when truly listens and understands you? My guess is that you want to listen and understand them. In the words of Steven Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, effective leaders seek first to understand before being understood. Such leaders know that great agreements and relationships are created in the context of mutual understanding.


Many questions arise when you begin to offer unconditional respect to others. “Dave, if I freely give my respect to others, won’t people take advantage of me? Don’t you think respect must be earned before it is given?” I do not. I encourage those I coach to be the initiator of respect, even to difficult people. As they sow seeds of sincere kindness by listening, they break the downward spiral of rudeness, disrespect, apathy and resentment by giving respect before receiving it.


My challenge for you is to give respect and kindness today by deeply listening to someone without judgment and criticism. Your sole purpose is to listen just to understand them. You will be amazed at what comes back to you.


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