Respect is what we give to and hope to receive from others. With respect comes an understanding of someone else’s’ perspective, choices, values, and priorities. We can give respect without agreeing with others perspective, but we cannot get respect without understanding the value of someone else’s life.
Respect is usually given as a result of getting to know and understand someone, which usually means we personally know them. In this age of technology, social media, and virtual connections it is more and more likely that we will have connections we have built a level of respect for without ever meeting that person face-to-face.
I believe respect comes in different levels of intensity and is mostly tied to how much we think we know about a person.
Level 1 – Just met you
When we meet someone, the level of respect we can give them and expect from them is determined by the etiquette of our society. Anything from acceptable personal space and phone manners, to how to queue for coffee are all a form of respect. Not understanding someone else’s social norms means we can sometimes see their actions as offensive or that we are not accepted because they don’t see our action as appropriate.
Level 2 – Acquaintance
Those people you know, like and trust that you have met several times at different networking events, at the office, or in common locations, like the neighbours house. These people are not yet friends that you have invited to your home and can be thought of as acquaintances. They don’t know that your mother is sick or how many children you have, but will always say, “hi” when they see you in public. Respect for these people and from these people comes from how consistent you are when you see each other. Do you make eye contact, do you remember what was said the last time you met, do you remember their name. If not, they are more like strangers you just met; no expectation of familiarity is required and no respect beyond level 1 is earned.
Level 3 – Friends and Family
Friends and family have developed a lot of respect for you and you for them for some aspect of who they are. Especially friends, who are not required to stay with you for a lifetime of friendship. A family member may forgive transgressions that lower their respect for you and visa-versa, but friends can simply walk away, as they are not likely to see you at the next family gathering. This level of friendship goes deeper than how you show up. Respect is often tied to your family’s respect level, your public image, your results in competition, school, or on the job. This level of respect takes longer to earn and is harder to repair if lost.
Level 4 – Close Family and Besties
A close family member or a life-long best friend is someone you love, no matter what. This is the highest level of respect you can earn and takes a lifetime to build. It is less fragile than Level 3 respect, but once broken is likely not repairable. This respect comes from consistent behaviour with expected outcomes. If you can know for sure someone will show up and behave in a consistent and expected way, you can count on their actions. Because of this, people that have level 4 respect create respect for others by giving a referral or testimonial of their trust in that person. Sometimes respect is a result of simply being under their influence, being seen with them can transfer respect through proximity. What is seen by others is that, “you must have something of value if this person is being seen with you.” Their respect is transferable on a level 2 scale and sometimes a level 3, without you having to create even the simplest relationship.
How to Lose Respect
So where in business do we expect to be respected, and for what? The place our trust is most often violated happens in wasting someone else’s time. Somehow, some people believe it is OK to be late, cancel an appointment just before a meeting, or show up unprepared. In general, without a really good reason, this is unacceptable behaviour. We all know “shit happens” and there are times when being late or not making a meeting are legitimate problems. Since the only resource we cannot buy more of is time, wasting someone’s time is, I believe, the number one way to lose their respect for you.
How to Gain Respect
The best way to gain respect is to go through the levels of respect over time and build a relationship that includes knowledge of the other person, and understanding of their needs and wants, acceptance of their differences, and a close connection that is built on open communications and trust.
Respect is a social capital that can be used to create valuable relationships and connections with people that can help us build and grow our businesses and make a difference in our lives. Don’t waste this resource you have. Give respect to get respect.