Eliza Doolittle, the main character in the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady,” makes a salient point about respect when she tells a visitor: “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a common flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me as a common flower girl and always will. But I know that I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering because he always treats me like a lady and always will.”
If you treat people like winners, they will act like winners. And conversely, if you treat them like losers, they will act like losers or at least resent you. The secret is to find something to respect in everyone you deal with.
Conflict is all around us. Same with opinions. We may think we are accepting of others, but many people see the world and all its issues differently. Are you respectful if someone has a different opinion from yours? Do you have an open mind?
Being respectful is a valuable quality, both personally and professionally. It’s important to treat people with courtesy and politeness. The word “courtesy” literally means “the way of the court.” This means acting like you would in the king’s court. Displaying the same actions and attitudes appropriate in the presence of royalty is a good guide for all our everyday dealings with others. Because when you treat others better than they are accustomed to being treated, their response is almost always positive.
You also need to be sensitive to the feelings of others. You might not even realize that your comments are hurtful so be careful what you say. Words are powerful, so speak with kind words.
It also helps to have an open mind and be willing to hear opposing opinions. Too many people want to cast judgment before they even hear an opposing point of view. Treat others how you want to be treated.
Look for common ground. Chances are that you have something in common. I have many friends with opposing viewpoints, but we have a mutual interest in something.
Be a good listener. Give people your full attention. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them.
And if you commit to something, follow through. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Bailing out is disrespectful.
Trust is a must. I am convinced that T-R-U-S-T is the most important five-letter word in business – not sales or money (or any other replaceable commodities). Trust can be fragile, especially in the workplace. Once it’s broken, few companies, managers or employees ever win it back.
Don’t gossip. The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a person six feet tall. The damage of gossip is not easily undone. So often the harm that gossip inflicts is irrevocable. A word can be more powerful than a sword. And your reputation takes a big hit, because others are concerned that you can’t be trusted with their information.
Be inclusive. Try to involve everyone that wants to participate. Have you ever been in a group where you seem to be invisible, with others speaking about topics that don’t involve you and your presence is ignored? Don’t put others in that position.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish essayist, novelist and poet, offered this description of the personal characteristic that brings respect from others: “That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.”
Wouldn’t it be great if more of us adopted that philosophy? It seems especially appropriate for the times we live in, when respect for others often appears to take a back seat. Consider this your chance to change your little corner of the world. Make your behavior a shining example for others to emulate. You won’t have any regrets for showing respect.
Mackay’s Moral: Respect: Give it to get it.