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How to earn RESPECT in your relationship with others (Part 1)

Great relationships gone sour. Increasing social and religious intolerance. Increasing narcissism. Rising divorce rates. Political turmoil in many parts of the world. Careless datings. Bad business partnership break-ups. What do all these have in common? It could be many things but one sticks out like a sore thumb.

The basic Lack of Respect in a relationship and to an extent, the lack of knowing HOW to respect others and life itself (regardless if it is yours or mine). Too bold or simplistic a statement? Well, what does respect really mean? Respect is not understood from its definition but from its actions. How does respect look like in practical terms?

"Respect is earned. You have to give respect to get it". You and I have heard this many times in our life, haven't we? The fact is, it is true and will remain so till the end of time. How then can we practise respect? As the saying goes, practise makes perfect, doesn't it? If you truly respect others for who and what they are, you will value their opinions and well-being, showing empathy and willingness to listen, being open-minded enough to understand the other person's feelings and concerns. You may not always agree with their thoughts, behaviour and actions but you would be willing to pause, think and reflect for the greater good of everyone at stake. You would be more willing to quiet your noisy mind and open your heart to feel and understand the present moment, environment and circumstance. You would seek a less aggressive, militant approach to finding common grounds for better relationship.

Practice humility

Over the course of my career and interactions with the government bodies and business communities worldwide, I had the privilege of observing many heads of states, CEOs, very successful business owners, and others in positions of great authority. I've noticed that some of the most effective leaders don't make themselves the center of attention. They're humble.

How did they do it? Is it innate? Maybe for a few but most practise humility. How? To be and stay humble is to assume (assumption is an appropriate practice here) that every person you meet is better than you are at some things. You’re not going to be right always, and you’re not the best at everything. Every person you meet can teach you something. Confidence doesn’t come from a place where you’re the best. True confidence comes from understanding humility, and that every person has something unique to offer to the world, including you. So, it makes no sense to carry around a sense of self-absorbed pride or arrogance. Indeed, as the old adage says, pride comes right before the fall. Be humble or you will stumble.

Don’t let emotions get the best of you

To earn respect, you must be willing to remain calm and collected regardless of the situation. If you lose your cool and allow emotions to take over, it will be much more difficult for others to view you in a positive light. Instead (now, these tips need a lot of practice):

  • You shouldn’t react emotionally during an argument. A respected person knows how to keep their cool when others cannot.

  • While another person may raise their voice to place emphasis on a point or to accuse you of something, you respond in a calm and yet, firm manner. When you do so, you can defuse the intense situation and earn the respect of others, at times including your enemy's.

  • You should also remain calm in tense situations. For example, say your work environment is stressful. Given this environment, it would be easy for you to lose your cool. However, by maintaining a level head, speaking in a calm voice and not allowing emotion to take over, you show command over the situation. This will attract others to you because they see leadership qualities in you.

Be Yourself (No fluff. Be real)

The first tips on how to gain respect is to be real, authentic. Other people will respect a person who is comfortable in his/her own skin, not pretending to be who they are not and mind you, human beings are very capable of detecting and identifying fakes as untrustworthy and insecure. In other words, people are always drawn to those people who truly are what they seem to be. They may not be the nicest people on earth but they will earn respect from others just by being themselves. So, you should be yourself at your best because this is the foundation for gaining respect from other people.

Apologize when it is due

One of the easiest but the hardest thing to do. Easier said than done, right? Yes, you are right. Get that ego out of the window. When you are wrong, and you know when you are, have the courage to apologize. Apologize first even if the other person is also in the wrong. However, people who are constantly saying, “I’m sorry,” without giving it a second thought are usually not the ones that are well respected either. Stop using the word “sorry” a hundred times an hour for every little thing that goes wrong. There is a time and place for apologies.

Express appreciation

The most respected people genuinely express appreciation in ways that are specific and positive. Do not mistook appreciation for praise. Many are not comfortable with the idea of praising others for reasons that are usually tied to cultural/religious practices and norms for fear that the ones who are being praised will be corrupted by conceit/arrogance. Genuine appreciation with meaning and purpose lifts people up. It is energizing and encourages them to do and be better and when genuine appreciation is felt, people will respect you for being open and honest with your thoughts and feelings.

Keep your promises

This is by far one of the most important actions you can take to start gaining respect. Always honour your commitments and make good your promises. If you find yourself having a lot of trouble with that, it means you make too many promises you can’t keep. Not honouring your promises is as good as lying.

Don’t waste other people’s time

If you respect others’ time, they will respect yours. This includes not being late for appointments, not spending meetings talking about useless items, getting to the point fast, bringing up issues right away, being succinct, and of course, making it easier for others to make decisions, especially when they are busier than you.

Speak Up

Don’t just take it when someone is mistreating you, or taking advantage of you. Be professional and diplomatic, but don’t be silent. I have been there, done that and believe you me, silence is not golden. I learnt my lesson the hard way and I am not about to let you go through it. So, I like to share with you this tip: Silence—and I don't mean a healthy pause or meditative break—speaks to the absence of verbal and emotional intimacy and expression which may lead to many negative emotional roller-coaster rides. Unless we’re able to communicate on levels of extra sensory perception or body language, words are the only tools available to us to communicate let alone resolve our issues.There’s little sense to being in a relationship and resorting to silence. Not only does it sabotage the lifeline of a healthy friendship/relationship/partnership, it chokes your expressive needs. Speaking up for yourself is not always easy to do, which is why it is the mark of a person deserving respect.

When we don’t share our thoughts with each other, we are often unconsciously doing so to control the other’s reactions and behaviour. If they don’t know what we’re contemplating, then they can’t possibly respond. At times, people who are inclined to please others or avoid confrontation fall prey to this dilemma. The tendency is to choose silence rather than upset the other party. ME!

Upon reflecting what I had gone through, when we resort to silence, we create an internal monologue, typically ascribing onto others our projection of how we assume they would respond if we actually shared our thoughts with them. In other words, we play out an entire script in which their role is predetermined. In doing so, we are locked into a state of stagnation, the communication stalls and the relationship has little chance to evolve. In such situations, it ordinarily withers. There’s certainly no opportunity for resolution, let alone growth.

At other times, silence is used to punish. By withdrawing from the relationship silence becomes a medium for anger, also obstructing the opportunity for resolution. In such cases, silence is employed to control the other’s behaviour. It mutes our thoughts and feelings, and deprives the potential for authentic dialogue. There is no possibility of resolution. Silence in these circumstances is thoroughly non-participatory.

Besides creating an obvious roadblock to the health of the relationship, silence can lead to despair and depression. I’m not referring to healthy breaks of contemplative reflection, but to the chronic struggle people have in expressing their feelings. Silence chokes the breath of relationship. Manipulative silence is soul defeating; the expressing of one’s voice is life affirming.

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