Respect is Like Air
Just as air is essential
to breathing and our existence, respect is essential to
success in our work life. We know we need respect in all of our work
relationships to fuel our energy and make us feel rewarded for our
contributions. How can we get more respect at work?
respect generates returned respect. It's a boomerang. Therefore,
use the opportunities presented every workday to show respect:
- Show that you hear and understand
- Collaborate - actually
A few tips on listening, empathy, and collaboration to demonstrate
Listen in a way to give yourself every chance to hear:
on the person speaking to you, and try to not think of the
impact on you.
- Make and keep eye contact. Don't let a tense situation
keep you from looking the other person in the eye.
- Try not to do
anything else while listening. The false efficiency of "multi-tasking" is
a serious impediment to showing respect as a listener.
- Ask clarifying
questions to be sure you understand. This gives you more
critical information and prevents false assumptions and premature
in the conversation without monopolizing it. If speaking is
your strength, you may need to be a more patient listener.
- Don't forget
to reframe what you have heard to show that you understand
what the other person is saying.
- Stay with the topic of the conversation;
don't go off track.
Show that you understand what is said:
- Work hard
at hearing without judging.
- Ask what the impact of a situation
is on the speaker in order to understand his/her feelings and
- Use humor appropriately. Used sensitively, humor can
relax a conversation. However, humor that discounts the situation
at hand or minimizes feelings is risky and can be damaging.
private information confidential. This honors the person in the
current situation and it builds trust for the future.
- Take the
other person's feelings into account when it is necessary to
give bad news.
Collaborate as partners and actually work together:
information as freely as you can. Even when sensitive information
must be kept confidential, some facts can be released. Go
- Give praise when it is deserved. Recognizing how someone
has done well in one situation isn't a blanket approval of every
situation. Don't be stingy when a team member has made a
- Involve others in making decisions. You'll be surprised
with the results both in new ideas and in how quickly a
relationship can become stronger.
- Look for anything you have in
common with your colleague, and work together on short-term,
small goals. Respecting the value someone brings to a project and
working together toward a goal can be an ultimate demonstration
of respect in the workplace.
Remember the saying "Respect is like
air. If you take it away, it's all people can think about" (Crucial
Conversations, 2002). When you notice that emotions are so highly
charged that they are getting in the way of logical discussion, your
colleague may be telling you something — dignity and respect are
all he or she can think about right then. When this happens, reach
out to repair any emotional damage and restart your efforts to create
respectful working relationship. Make a special effort to listen,
be empathetic, and collaborate. Work relationships won't "work" without
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