Would they respect me? You might think the asker of this question was one of my leadership coaching clients and I’ve had many conversations with clients about respect over the years. In this case, the asker was my seven year old daughter.
We were attending a National Geographic Live event to hear Geographic Explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle share her stories as a Marine Biologist for the last four decades and most poignantly her leadership and many firsts as a woman in her field. Being the first women to live on the sea floor and the first to do research on a ship in the Indian Ocean as the only woman on board. As she showed a picture of her with the twenty men on the boat, my daughter leaned over and asked “If I did that, would I be respected?”. I was floored and awed that my seven year old thinks of such deep concepts and my response to her was, “Yes, you’ll be respected.” I have no doubt she will be respected because she’s thinking about respect and its impacts.
My thinking might be naive. I want her to be respected in life and I believe in her character as her mom. By sheer virtue that she’s curious and asking the question tells me she already recognizes how important respect is and will do things to ensure she respects and is respected. But, respect isn’t guaranteed. It’s tied to how we show up and interact with those around us.
This got me thinking… What is respect? How do we become respected? Where are the implications of respect. Here is what I’ve since learned.
What is respect?
A quick google for “What is respect” and I found this definition: “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” A simpler definition is: Respect is how you feel about someone and how you treat them. Its thinking and acting in a positive way about yourself or others and showing others you care about their feelings and their well-being. You can have respect for others and for yourself.
How do we become respected?
Like trust, you can’t take respect, you can’t ask for it, you can’t demand it. You can give it and earn it. Respect is demonstrated and built through your thoughts and actions.
Respect is earned by:
Think the best of people
Treat others with care for their feelings and well-being.
Appreciating your strengths
Talk about what you care about
Listen, really listen
Live your values
Keep your word
Be comfortable in your own skin
Find a way to be inclusive
Focus on solutions, not blame
Seek and share knowledge
Express gratitude and praise the work of others
Find the joy in everything
What are the implications of giving respect?
The benefit of giving respect is that you receive it back from others. It gains you connection and deeper relationships with those you’ve built respect with. You experience less conflict and move through conflict and differing perspectives more easily. And you find greater contentment and harmony. Finally, you’re seen as a person others want to support and be with. An essential quality of any leader is respect.
In exploring this issue to ensure my daughter will give and earn respect in the future, I’ve discovered that respect is both a way of thinking and acting. Begin with respecting yourself and those around you and it will come back to you. I’m going to be working harder on being a role model for respect not just for my daughter but everyone around me.