Rodney Dangerfield made a pretty good living with his trademark line, “I don’t get no respect.”. He made millions. He started successful businesses. His influence launched the careers of several iconic stars. Here’s the funny thing: many people treated him with no respect offstage. He gave them permission when he told them that he didn’t get respect (even though it was a character). We give permission to others to do that to us, too.
Respect is about helping someone maintain their humanity, honor and dignity – including our own*. Respect is about treating each other as an equally valued human beings. If we’re not equals that makes one person better than the other. That’s broken. I’m an adult. You’re an adult. I may defer to you because you’re my organizational superior or have more experience or insight than I do. But we have equal value in who we are as human beings.
We give permission to get no respect when we lie to our boss, “That’s a great idea, Ms. Tutankhamen” … or sit idly by when we think their idea stinks like a flaming bag of poo. Same thing when we skirt the truth with our clients or prospects for the sake of the sale. Or avoid the tough conversation or lie about issues with our employee, husband, wife, or child. That’s covering your ass by dodging the difficult conversations. We can call that being courteous, polite or deferential. Let’s not call it respect.
It takes courage to be respectful when we don’t agree with the other person. Especially when they have leverage over us. Showing the courage to be honest cultivates self-respect. The key is to be respectful when we’re being honest with ourselves and others. Remember we’re maintaining their humanity, honor and dignity. We’re not flaming them or proving them wrong.
The next time you consider kowtowing to your boss, your customer, your spouse, your child … ask yourself, “Is giving in or giving up worth my self-respect?” We get what we give. If you don’t treat yourself with respect, why would anyone else?
What if you allowed yourself to stand on equal footing? What if you put yourself in the position to maintain someone’s humanity, honor and dignity and stand up for what you believe is right? What if you took that leap of faith? You might just find you get more of what you give … respect.