For today, I wanted to talk about the notion of respect.
Let's get one thing straight before we start. This isn't directed at any one individual nor do I have anyone in mind when I'm writing this. This is in response to behaviors I've seen both online and off. Every job I've had so far in life has been in the service sector. I've worked as a fast food cashier, a librarian page, a cafeteria worker, a fry cook, a big-box store cashier, a library department head, and now a freelance artist. I've seen the best and the worst that people have to offer. I've see it all, man!
So, how do you get people to respect you and treat you right? You earn it. How? Here's a few methods to try...
1) Respect yourself.
You know how people say you have to love yourself before others can love you? It works that way with respect, too. If you have little respect and esteem for yourself, then why should anyone else have it for you? You teach people, through your words and actions, how you want to be seen. If you treat yourself as a valuable person, others will pick up on that and respond in kind. If you treat yourself as a joke, then you will become a joke to others. Treat yourself well, take care of yourself, and listen to how you feel. This does not mean putting yourself on a pedestal. It means taking the time to treat yourself right and learn who you are.
2) Act with integrity and honesty.
This is an easy one to trip on, especially unintentionally. It's one of the reasons I apologize a lot even though I'm trying the best I can. I always worry that I'm lax here if I'm running a little behind. Acting with integrity means doing what you say and saying what you do. If you say you're going to do something, then you should do it. If you can't because things have changed or something came up, you apologize and find a way to rectify the situation. This tells others that you value their time and business. It's also the gateway to trust.
3) Ask questions.
Asking questions and listening to others admits that you don't believe you have all the answers. It means you're open to learning. It allows others to share their knowledge and experiences with you. And finally, it shows that you have a bit of humility. Having humility doesn't mean you're a doormat. It means you're not an egotist.
4) Say please and thank you.
I'm amazed at how rarely these three little words are used lately, especially online. They're short, easy to say, cost nothing to use, and can greatly affect how someone sees you as a person. Use them on everyone, not just friends and family. Why? Because they make people happy. Seriously, watch people's faces when you address them this way. They light up. The reason is simple, by taking the time to say those few little words you've given them something that many don't get these days, especially if they're working in the service sector... gratitude, appreciation, and an understanding that they're a fellow human being. In other words, you've given them respect.
5) Respect others.
Showing respect for others makes people more inclined to respect you. At the very least they won't bolt for the door when they see you coming. Respecting others involves treating them politely, actually listening when they speak, empathizing with their situation, and accepting both their assets and their flaws. It also involves respecting their boundaries and beliefs, even if these aren't what you prefer or even understand. This doesn't require you to accept their beliefs and boundaries as your own, it just means that you acknowledge their existence and try to avoid stomping on them. Respecting someone shows others that you're willing to treat them well. Most people will reciprocate in kind.
Alright, so what isn't respect? What can cause us to lose the respect of others?
1) Respect does not mean conformity or becoming a doormat.
No one respects a "yes man". It's okay to have your own opinions, values, and views. It's also okay to stand up for those. In fact, doing so relates back to respecting yourself. We show people we're valuable by not rolling over and giving in whenever they waggle their fingers at us. This can be difficult, especially when friends and family are involved. Some people are very good at wheedling and manipulating others to get what they want. It's hard to keep that core of respect for yourself when others are picking at you. I know. But the more you keep trying, the easier it will become.
2) Respect does not mean grandstanding.
Puffing yourself up like a bullfrog looking for a date isn't respecting yourself. Yes, some people may believe you, but most will see that you're buffing. This reads not as self-respect or confidence, but as desperation. You appear desperate to prove you're worthy of respect. The thing is, people who gain respect don't need to prove their worth by pointing out victories, abilities, money, or intelligence. They know their worth and they radiate that knowledge.
Bragging about your abilities does more than just appear desperate. It can also turn people off. No one likes a show-off or wants to feel like they're extras in the movie of your life. They understand that your life is important to you, but they also have their own movies to star in. And occasionally, they want to talk about themselves. When that happens stop talking for a bit, give them a turn, and actively listen to what they have to say.
3) Respect does not involve cutting others down.
This kind of goes with the previous one. Putting yourself on a pedestal does not make people respect you. Neither does threatening people. It may make them fear you, but that's not the same thing. Ridiculing others may feel great for a while, but it won't make people see you as someone they admire. Nor will treating those who help you as servants, questioning others' abilities or intelligence, condemning their decisions because they're not what you'd do, acting as if everyone owes you something, or feeling that their efforts are beneath you.
This gives people the impression that you see others as mere objects, not fellow human beings. No one appreciates being used as a 2x4 to prop up another person's ego.
I hope this post hasn't come across as overly aggressive. If so, I apologize. That wasn't my intention. The whole point is that respect is something that has to be earned. We can do so by learning to respect ourselves and showing a similar attitude towards others.
Respect is one of the few rewards that artists can receive. Yet it's also one that I see many artist throw away in attempts to prove their worth. You don't need to go that route. Quiet, calm dignity can work wonders. It's good for your emotions, your confidence, and your interactions with others.
"Men are respectable only as they respect."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson