You may be an Academy Award winner, Super Bowl champion, president of a large corporation –– or even the leader of a nation. But none of this automatically entitles you to respect.
And just because you’re famous and we’re members of your fan club, or we wish we could walk in your shoes for a day, doesn’t mean that we respect you.
Some people believe that because they’re rich, powerful, or famous, they deserve our respect — regardless of their behavior. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Respect must be earned.
Do You Deserve Our Respect?
When we were young, we were taught to respect our parents and siblings, teachers and elders, rules of the house and laws of the land. We were also taught to be tolerant of other people’s ideas and respectful of their traditions.
As we got older, we became more discerning. Now we offer respect to people who behave properly on a consistent basis, and we shake our heads, often in sadness and pity, at those who think that respect is measured by the size of their pocketbook or the job title they possess.
The bottom line is that everyone is entitled to be treated with kindness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve earned the right to be admired or respected.
How to Gain Respect
So, how do you earn the respect of others? It’s easy to respect someone who displays the following qualities:
Authenticity. You are proud of who you are and what you stand for. You’re neither intimidated by someone else’s opinion nor worried about what people think of you. You don’t play games, have a personal “agenda,” or pretend to be someone you’re not. You’re the real deal. Ahh, so refreshing.
Knowledge. You might be very smart, but you don’t give the appearance of being a know-it-all. You’re curious about the world around you, eager to learn, and hungry to improve yourself.
Integrity. You have high ethical values and are true to your beliefs. You follow the spirit of the law, not because you signed an agreement or are afraid of being caught, but because it’s the right thing to do — and that’s good enough reason for you.
Honesty. Your life is an open book because you have nothing to hide. You’re passionate about being straightforward, and you’re happy to deliver good news without sugarcoating the bad. You don’t make promises lightly. In fact, your promise is as binding as a contract.
Fairness. You believe in building long-term relationships rather than settling for short-term gains. You strive for win-win relationships, knowing that if a solution isn’t evenhanded, no one wins.
Tolerance. You are receptive to ideas, beliefs, and cultures other than your own. In the process, you always try to evaluate all sides of an issue rather than forcing your personal opinion on others.
Humility. You are modest about your achievements, comfortable in your own skin, and quietly proud. You shift your focus from taking to giving, from talking about yourself to listening to others, and from hoarding the credit to distributing the praise.
Selflessness. You give to others because you want to, not because you expect anything in return. You believe that your kindness helps to build trust, strengthen relationships, and enhance everyone’s sense of self-worth — not to mention, adding to your karma.
Compassion. You go out of your way to treat others kindly even though you’ve reached the top of your game. You remember your roots and give credit to everyone who helped you along the way. You bring out the best in people in an effort to make everyone feel special, and you help those in need of a break.
Personal responsibility. You take charge of your life rather than feeling that the world owes you something. You set your goals high, make the commitment and sacrifice required to succeed, and accept the consequences of your choices. Of course, if things go south, you don’t play the blame game or fall back on excuses — you remain positive and steadfast.
Quality associations. You are vigilant about the people with whom you surround yourself, knowing that you win or lose respect based on the company that you keep.
Organizations, like people, are also in a position to either win or squander the respect of others. For example, does your organization welcome anyone into its “tent” regardless of his or her behavior? Does it have an “everything goes” policy as long as it hits its quarterly numbers or beats the competition? When members do something inappropriate or unethical, is action taken — or does your organization “paper over” the situation, implicitly condoning the behavior?
Respect Begins with You
You may be able to fool others, but you can’t fool yourself. If you want self-respect it’s important to set high standards, remain true to your beliefs and values, listen to your conscience, and never stop trying until you do yourself proud. Sure, you’ll make mistakes and you may even fail along the way. But at least you’ll know, in your heart, that you gave it your best effort and you lived your life the right way. And that has self-respect written all over it.
Now, think about the people with whom you come into contact each day. Some of those folks demand respect because of their age, wealth, or position. Others feel entitled to respect because they’re popular, have a big office, or because they’ve won awards. And still others think that everyone deserves respect regardless of their actions. The truth is, many of them don’t even respect themselves.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, work on the top floor or down in the basement, everyone earns respect the same way. You can’t require respect or demand it. You can’t cut deals or take shortcuts. You can’t buy respect or even place a price tag on it. And that’s because respect is priceless. Earn it every day!