Respect: Find Out What It Means to Me

If you’ve ever disrespected people at work, or been the victim of their disrespect, you know the fallout can be devastating. But do you know how to change negative behavior patterns that undermine respect?

Showing respect for others can be difficult when they push your buttons or you disagree, but it’s absolutely necessary for a harmonious and productive environment. Respect is, in its most simple form, a way of looking at people. To view a person with respect implies that she deserves merit just because she exists.

In other words, you understand that because she is taking this journey with you on this planet at the same time and place, she deserves a certain degree of mutual compassion. Two ways you can show that compassion are 1) being present and 2) not engaging in tit for tat.

Be Present

One of the ways you can show respect for a person is by conveying the message, “I am with you. I want to be with you. It’s worth my time and effort to be here.” You can do that through your body language, tone, and words. You have likely felt the difference between a person being “present” with you in the moment versus the person being “somewhere else.” When someone is present, you feel warm and welcomed and engaged. She makes eye contact with you, she faces you when you’re talking, her tone is neutral or pleasant, and her words show that she is paying attention to what you said.

When the person is not present, you may feel nervous, anxious, unwanted, or unneeded. She may face away from you, make little or intermittent eye contact, use a harsh or disinterested tone, and say things that show she didn’t really pay attention to what you said. In any case, it’s not pleasant when you talk and the other person doesn’t listen with his or her full attention.

Don’t be that person! If you can’t be fully present, say to the person, “I’m a bit distracted right now because I need to attend to this other issue. Can we agree to come back together in an hour when I can give you my full attention?”

Don’t Engage in Tit for Tat

Being present is one way you can show respect for another person. There are many other ways to show respect, but let’s look at one way that actively shows disrespect, and that is an attitude of “tit for tat,” otherwise known as, “Oh, yeah? Well, what about THIS?”

You are engaging in tit for tat if, when someone criticizes you or gives you constructive feedback, you respond with criticism. Often, this takes the form of something unrelated to what the person said to you, which confuses the situation even more. For example, your colleague says, “It sure would make things run a lot smoother if you had charts ready to go at the beginning of the day.” In response, you say something like, “Well, it would make MY job a lot easier if you could get boarding clients’ dogs up here sooner when I call for them.”

By responding to confrontation with criticism, you are hoping to discredit the other person and thereby invalidate her criticism of you. Why should you have to listen to someone who is so screwed up, anyway? When you’re feeling defensive, take a step back, breathe deeply, and change course toward more relationship-building techniques.

Looking for more training on respect in the workplace? One of my speaking topics, “Just Need a Little Respect,” is all about that very subject: Teams who attend this seminar are better able to:

  • Value the importance of demonstrating respect in the workplace
  • Recognize common negative behavior patterns that undermine respect
  • Execute specific strategies to demonstrate respect in clear, professional, and productive ways

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