Push Respect

by  Mike Henry  |  Self Leadership

We’ve had a couple of great discussions on this site and on LinkedIn over the saying, “Respect must be earned.”  You can see some of the discussion on the comments to Mary Schaefer’s post, Respect Must Be Earned.  Also, check out the tag on respect and see a number of great posts about respect on this blog.

However, that saying came from a different time.  People used to think in terms of earning something or having it given.  A more modern way of saying “respect must be earned” today might be something to the effect that “we pull respect.”  We’re expected to attract respect without pursuing it outright.

Respect is a push, not a pull.

Nevertheless, that still misses a key point about respect that we often overlook.  You see, respect, like humility is not about us.  Respect is about what we do for others.  Respect is a push, not a pull.

If you try to pull respect, you risk several errors.  One is the error of demanding respect. When someone demands respect, I am tempted to withhold it instantly.  (I’m rather contrary.)

Several years ago I managed a warehouse.  While walking around one day I noticed a new temporary worker doing a sloppy job.  I asked him about how he had been shown what to do and why he wasn’t doing his job the proper way.  He told me he was doing his job the way he wanted to.  Not wanting to invest a lot of time and energy in this person (my own mistake), I suggested that he needed to call it a day and ask his temporary service to put him somewhere else tomorrow.  We wouldn’t need his services any longer today or in the future.

“What?” he asked.

“You can leave.” I answered.

“You can’t talk to me like that.  You need to talk to me with respect.  I don’t have to take that from you!” he responded.

“Alright, you can leave, sir.” I replied.

The rest of the exchange probably shouldn’t be reprinted.

No one wants to have their respect demanded, manipulated, coerced or cajoled.  It’s just not proper.  Respect is one of those things I consider as a “push” attribute.  I can always give respect and I can always give more than I usually do (exemplified, sadly, above).  There is always room for more respect to be given, but not taken.  When I focus on myself, I won’t get any and I won’t give any.  We all lose.

Let’s stop trying to pull respect and give respect all we can.  What if our respect was measured by what we gave rather than what we got?  What if your respect was the total of what you gave?  How would you be doing?  How can you push more respect this week?

Photo © Jason Stitt – Fotolia.com

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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mary C Schaefer  |  05 Jul 2011  |  Reply

LOVE this Mike: “What if our respect was measured by what we gave rather than what we got? What if your respect was the total of what you gave? How would you be doing?” So thought-provoking.

Mike Henry  |  06 Jul 2011  |  Reply

Thanks Mary. I’ve thought a lot lately from your posts on this topic up to now on how respect comes from appreciation. If we’re grateful for others, we’ll esteem them and respect them. Focusing “respect” on ourselves just seems to hollow it out. Mike…

Beyond Horizons  |  12 Jul 2011  |  Reply

“When someone demands respect, I am tempted to withhold it instantly. (I’m rather contrary.)” <— I know what you mean and I react in exactly the same way! I think respect isn't a one way street. You need to give to get.
Also, I believe that in order to get respect, you need to first develop a healthy sense of respect for yourself as well. No one will respect you if you don't consider yourself worthy of respect.

-Sindoora (http://www.beyondhorizons.in)

Mike Henry  |  12 Jul 2011  |  Reply

Sindoora, thanks for the observation. I did leave out the necessity to have a “healthy sense of respect for yourself.” Nice catch. That’s probably another post altogether because the traps associated with self-respect are the same as those with respect. We can have too little or we can have too much. Thanks for the reminder.

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