I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
My parents taught me that everyone, regardless of what career they have, where they’re from, or what their belief system is, deserves to be treated with respect. My parents taught me that the person who cleaned and maintained my school, was just as important as the most famous person I would meet. They taught me to show my gratitude to everyone who helped me.
I was also taught that people who are communicating in a second or third language, are often less articulate than when they speak in their first language. I was taught to show them respect by listening patiently so that I could be sure I understood what they were sharing.
While I was attending Military College, I learned that a nice second order effect to treating people with respect, is that they are more willing to do what you ask them to. About half way through university, I realized that the kitchen staff would customize my meal order, giving me whatever foods, I asked for, as long as it was somewhere on the menu. My friends asked me why I could get whatever I wanted when they had to stick to the set menu choices. The only difference between us that I noticed, was how we communicated with the kitchen staff. I generally made small talk, and thanked the staff for the work they’d done preparing my meal.
Over time I learned that a large part of treating people with respect is learning how to communicate with them, in a way that they understand. Investing the time to understand how best to communicate with people is worth the effort. Especially if you aspire to be a leader.
Showing respect goes beyond words. As I matured my understanding of respect became even more inclusive. As a leader I realized that everyone on my team, had something to offer, that we all have gifts to share. That when people share their gifts and support each other, we all thrive. My understanding of respect grew to include learning what others were interested in, their aptitudes and strengths, and then assigning them roles that leveraged their gifts.
In 2020, my understanding that the planet and all living beings on this planet, are deserving of respect, crystalized into actually apologizing to spiders as I disturbed their homes, while weeding a garden patch in my front yard. I also got in the habit of thanking the greens and herbs as I harvested them to eat. I credit this deeper understanding of respecting all life to reading, and starting to absorb, the lessons in “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Increasingly in our world, people are so “busy” that they try to find short cuts to “save” time. I urge you to invest your time in communicating respectfully with everyone you interact with. This can be as simple as showing up for meetings prepared and on time, or choosing to ignore a ringing phone while you’re meeting with someone.
One practical way that you can show that you respect someone else’s preferred mode of communication, is to ask them how they’d like to meet. During a pandemic most meetings take place virtually. Many people enjoy meeting by video, some prefer a simple phone call, and others prefer to communicate in writing. All are great ways to communicate! If you’re having a virtual meeting, you can let participants know that turning on their camera is optional, as is writing responses or questions in the chat.