Everyone is on a quest for respect. Parents want their kids to do it, employees want bosses to do it, spouses demand it of each other, teachers ask their students for it and people in general feel good when it happens to them. Why is it then that so many people have no clue what respect means? Let’s take a look at this elusive quality by first defining the term.
Respect is a word we hear a lot, don’t always define uniformly and means different things to different people. This leaves everyone guessing and going in different directions that may or may not lead to respectful relationships. So let’s try the following definition on for size.
Respect: Being treated in a positive way that makes you feel needed or important.
Let’s not get caught in whether this definition is exact enough or not, we could split hairs all day and probably still disagree. The important concept here is that people want to feel needed and important. Ask yourself if you’ve ever met someone who said, “I just want to be treated like I’m insignificant and a loser.” We’ve all seen the results of people being treated this way and they are generally not positive.
So let’s take our new definition and apply it to ourselves. There are certain characteristics of people who command genuine respect. We’re not talking about people who walk in a room and scare everyone into submission; that’s based on control and fear. Respect is about what people really think of us and it’s sometimes at odds with how we see ourselves from the inside. There are plenty of really bossy and insufferable people walking around thinking they are deeply admired and venerated when they are uniformly reviled.
The general characteristics of a person who is respected are:
- People generally like and trust them.
- They can lead people by inspiring rather than through fear and intimidation.
- They listen to others.
- They model respectful behavior.
- They value and are not threatened by the input of others.
- They are flexible enough to modify their attitudes and approaches.
- They are kind in general.
So we now have some basic characteristics of people who are respected. Let’s look at a couple ideas you can use to apply this to your situation.
The first step in your quest to be respected is to take a careful look at yourself and evaluate your actions. Your behaviors will determine whether people genuinely respect us or are just afraid or staying out of our way. This requires that you be brutally honest about both your strengths and areas for improvement. Try to be as objective as possible. You may even want to ask the people around you and apply their advice to moving in a new direction.
The second vital element is being empathic (or empathetic) toward others. We deserve respect when we have demonstrated that we can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and truly understand where they are coming from. People admire us when it is clear that we are not only acting on our own behalf but, rather, in everyone’s interest. People naturally know the difference between someone who genuinely cares about them and someone who is just doing it to get something out of it. Being empathic means listening and valuing what other people say. It works best when we put our own insecurities and needs for control on the shelf and open ourselves up to outside ideas.
As you’ve noticed, respect isn’t about demanding, it is about behaving in ways that get us more positive results. If you really want people to respect you take a good hard look at the areas you need to improve in your life and work on how you empathize with people. Once you do some basic fine-tuning of these areas you will be getting tons of respect for all the right reasons.