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Shows of Respect

Photo by Jim McCarthy

Even when you don’t know someone – wait, especially when you don’t know someone – it works well to show respect. Works with people you know too. Even works with people you don’t like. As a practical matter, when you show respect to someone – whoever they are — you’re more likely to get a positive outcome. And it’s so easy to do. Wonder we don’t do it more.

What is a show of respect? First, it’s a show. A demonstration. It’s visible, intended to get noticed. It’s something a little out of the ordinary, on purpose. Like holding a door or bowing a head. It’s visibly making an effort.

A show of respect says: “This moment is special. I’m glad to be in it with you. Even if fleeting.” Sometimes a show of respect happens in a flash; an eye-to-eye glance that says “I believe in you.”

One way to show respect is to get someone’s name right. Or at least try. And that includes pronouns, last name, pronunciation, and maybe their title. Ask someone: “How would you like to be called?” Making these efforts says, “I’m trying to make friends with you.”

When I go to a funeral I wear black. When I go to a gym I wear sweats. When I go to a birthday party I take a gift. It says “I am bending for you.” And sometimes it’s sticking out and showing respect for something against the grain, like taking a knee at a football game.

Sometimes shows of respect seem not extraordinary at all, but we still see them. It’s answering a question when asked. It’s calling at 10am when I said I would call at 10am. It’s leaving the kitchen clean, or a note.

The things is, these are all voluntary. No one will notice or care if you don’t do these things. Rather, think of them as opportunities. These are free, easy, low-risk ways to increase your chances of getting better outcomes with every single person you meet. Shows of respect can cost next-to-nothing and bring valuable benefits.

Oh. There’s another thing. It works extra well if you believe it; you know, if you do actually respect the person. If you truly believe that there is something sacred in each person you meet, your belief will come out in shows of respect. You don’t have to force or fake anything. The best shows of respect come straight from the heart.

2 thoughts on “Shows of Respect

  1. Thanks for your comment Jules. Always great to hear from you. And I love how you “see the job as a chance to show gestures of respect.” Love that.

  2. I earn my tuition money (for grad school) with my student job in dining. I’m almost always keeping tables clean and anything our customers touch sanitized. Other people do this job quietly. But I see the job as a chance to show gestures of respect: complimenting people on their outfits, asking people sitting alone how their day is going, asking people about to leave if they enjoyed their meal… It makes a difference. It makes them feel valued and cared for. I leveraged the good feelings the day before homecoming to remind the students to be extra careful with all the people from away about to converge on campus. They listened in a way they wouldn’t have if I hadn’t established rapport. We served nearly 700 that day.

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