All too often we believe respect is something that needs to be earned through a hierarchical ladder.
As we make our way up the ladder, leveling up year on year, we gain another ounce of respect. The higher we are up this ladder, the more we expect the people below us to look up to us (they are, after all, below you).
This is most commonly true, in my experience (albeit mostly a passive one), in office culture. The higher you are up the corporate ladder, the more respect you expect to feel beaming your way from colleagues laying at your feet. And often you feel like you deserve it, after all you were treated the same way by your superiors when you were in their position.
When tidying through my possessions a month or so ago, sat among a bunch of old David Bowie LPs I found a quote I’d jotted down three years ago:
Your job gives you authority, your behavior gives you respect – Irwin Federman
Have you ever met somebody working what you may personally consider a terrible job that acted towards you in such a manner that you respected them above anybody else in that moment? The same can be said for somebody in a so called “good job” that behaves in such a way that you can’t wait to get away from her fast enough.
This isn’t always the dynamic, mind. When I worked in a large department store a couple of years ago I dealt with high-profile celebrities and members of various royal families on a daily basis. In all but a couple of cases (out of hundreds), these people acted in such a way that I immediately liked them and respected them, not for their fame, hierarchy, or talent, but for how they behaved, with me, in that moment.
When Amy Winehouse died last year it killed me to listen to people around me say cruel things about her, and (in fantastic acts of cowardice) post comments about her on their Facebook profiles. I met her a year prior to her death, and she genuinely couldn’t have been a nicer girl. Despite the huge void between the supposed respect myself (as a common sales assistant) and she (as one of the worlds most successful artists) should garner, she looked me straight in the eye and spoke to me with absolute respect. Even her bodyguard, who to this day is still the largest man I have ever seen, treated me as one of their small family for the ten minutes we spent together.
When she died, far apart from all the images of her taking drugs, lashing out at fans, and generally living a destructive lifestyle, all I could picture was this small girl who, in that moment, had looked me straight in the eye and spoke to me with absolute respect.
Amy’s only one example. From Queens to footballers, from actors to comedians, it was always the same. No doubt their respect for the people around them has contributed in some part to their individual successes in their fields.
So you’re looking for respect? Stop focusing on levels and hierarchy and start focusing on people. Start to treat people as people and you’ll go a long way.
Your job gives you authority, your behavior gives you respect.
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