Respect – Used to build trust or drive a wedge between people?

As I work with many individuals and teams to establish trusting relationships with those around them, I often have conversations around which behaviours and attitudes build or destroy trust. The characteristics that consistently come up include:

  • Communicating clearly
  • Showing respect
  • Demonstrating loyalty
  • Being honest and open

Today I want to look at respect as a foundation for building trust. By respect, people usually mean kindness, warmth, regard for the feelings of others and plain, old fashioned civility. When there is a lack of respect at work it’s often experienced as fake concern, insincere flattery or respect that is only shown to people who can be useful or influential.

Who would argue against having respect in relationships? It’s always seen as a good thing and appears in many corporate values statements, but what does it mean really? And how can you show genuine respect when you just don’t feel genuine respect for someone?

Is respect a judgement or an action?

When you say you respect someone, you’re usually looking at, and assessing the other person in a particular way. You’re saying you are open to listening to them and honouring their views even when you disagree. When you don’t respect someone you are usually closed to their views, and therefore closed to the possibilities that conversations with them could bring. Both of those positions are based on making judgements about them and deciding whether they are worthy of your respect. So what are the implications for leaders?

If respect is a judgment, it becomes a source of separation and conflict between people rather than a way of bringing people closer and building trust. Rather than respect being a judgement it needs to be an action – a demonstration of your own commitment to relating effectively to the other person, staying open to them, and listening to them regardless of any judgements you might have about their behaviour or values.

If you truly feel that respect is a fundamental characteristic of leadership then you need to take a stand for respecting everyone not only the people with whom you agree or whose values align with yours.

I look forward to hearing your views and will commit to staying open and respecting them, and you, even when they clash with mine.

17 Responses to Respect – Used to build trust or drive a wedge between people?

  • Thank you for this provocative article. I have grown to believe that I am a better person when I allow another persons views/behaviors/actions to be.. Without my trying to make them wrong or trying to change them. If I disagree I will offer that I respectfully agree that we disagree. I have come to see the difference between Discernment and Judgement. I discern, with judgement, what may or may not be good for me. Judgement for me, is when I am threatened by someone elses stance and need to have them agree with me for my SelfEsteem!
    I hope that made sense! Peace.

  • Provocative article. Thanks for the thinking challenge. I think it’s unrealistic to believe it’s possible to remain judgement free indefinitely. People may be able to pull it off for a while, but I think it’s unrealistic. Even positive opinions are judgements. Respect is an important component of leadership — for the followers. I need to respect anyone wanting to lead me. If I can’t respect him/her, I can try to follow, but the relationship will break down quickly. As far as not respecting someone because he/she doesn’t share my values? That depends on what you mean. There are some values that virtually all people hold, such as not cheating, not stealing, not lying, etc. How can you follow someone who doesn’t hold those values as vital? …or puts on a facade of following those values, but does not in his/her private mind? If you mean religion, politics, etc — that’s different. I could definitely follow as person with a different religion than mine (or none at all0, different politics, etc., as long as they stay within the critical values (things with potential to send a person to jail). Does that make sense?

    • Thanks for your thoughtful contribution Samantha. I agree that it is unrealistic to be judgement free. In fact I believe that would be detrimental to everyone. After all it is our judgements that set moral standards.

      I am very aware though, of how we can unconsciously put up a barrier to certain people and disregard them. At work it may be colleagues we feel have nothing to contribute, in wider society it may be groups of young offenders. Shouldnt we still give them the time and attention (respect?) to find out what they need and how we can support them to be their best?

  • Respect is often easily demonstrable. Acknowledging skills, work and achievements of your team and attributing them to the right people enables the team to see the sincerity of a team leader. This opens the door to true resect within the team.

  • Great–thought provoking. Marriages where respect is based on a judgment usually have significant problems. Respect as an action—great insight.

    • I appreciate that Kay. I’m so glad you and others are finding this thought provoking. Your responses help me think through my position on issues so its a great two way development process.

  • Such a great post, and in alignment with the work I do on respect with my partner, Georgine Madden. We have created a vide called “DoRespect” because we believe respect is an action . . . not just an attitude or belief. Check out the preview on our website at Enjoy!

  • Thanks for this thought provoking post. I see respect as an entitlement of all human beings. As a leader this poses me several challenges: respect for others should override my negative perceptual filters of individuals therefore giving and showing respect is a conscious act as well as a personal behaviour that I try to nourish and develop; in respecting others I offer a positive bahavioural model that signals my desire to build and maintain a team within which every voice is acknowledged as valid – it’s not a question of right and wrong; it’s more about actively valuing the contribution of others.

  • Very thought provoking. It’s so hard to remain judgment free, especially in a diverse workforce where it’s impossible to agree with everyone. However the idea of taking action to simply stay open and show respect is something tangible I can take away and use. Thanks Julie!

  • I agree we don’t have to agree with those we respect but we owe it to them to listen. Nicely thought out blog entry.

    • Thanks for dropping in and giving your feedback Ross. Glad you liked it.

      • Your article is short but full but easy to understand they way you explain respect made me understand why do we respect people but I want to know that we can’t respect everyone some people make u disrespect them in our study group or working group ?! How in the world could we respect the?

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