Hello, this is Vistelar Consultant Roy Aiken.
I watch the elderly woman ahead of me in the grocery store check-out line as she struggles to find money in her purse. She’s taking too long to accomplish what I could do quickly with ease. I purposely decide to wait patiently for her to complete the transaction.
Later I thought about my response to her fragility – is it enough to be patient, or should I have done more? We all struggle a bit in moments like this – not really sure what to do. My own experience has taught me that most people want to show they can still do for themselves as they grow older.
Respect comes in many forms – it’s simple yet complex, easy to voice but difficult at times to give and even more so to sustain. If we responded appropriately to the needs of the people around us, the world we live in would be a much different place: more respect; less strife, animosity and bigotry.
“People want to be treated with dignity by being shown respect” – this is the guiding principle that drives the methodology known as Verbal Defense & Influence. It’s the first of what we call the Five Maxims of Human Interaction.
Like road maps, these maxims are useful for illuminating your way each day as you meet, talk and work with those around you.
I want to share with you how I began to peel away the layers of meaning imbedded in these maxims, so that each one of these five road maps becomes more credible. I looked for other’s insights as I began my research. What an eye opener it’s been, so this is the first in a series of articles on the topic.
The power of respect
Thinking back to the lady in the check-out line, I knew I could have assisted her in some way, but I decided to acknowledge her independence. She appeared to be capable, she only needed a little more time and space. There’s dignity in being able to navigate through the day on your own and I needed to respect that.
Quite by chance, I’ve discovered several excellent researchers and story tellers. The first is Deborah Norville, who in her book “The Power of Respect”, writes her definition of respect. “Acknowledging the value and uniqueness of others and being mindful of their feelings, while at the same time trying to put myself in their position.”
I’ve had to recognize the need be more consistent in acknowledging the value in others. It’s easy to say though difficult at times, especially when difficult people get on your nerves. As the lyrics in Miranda Lambert’s popular country music song” so profoundly point out – “It takes all kinds of kinds.”
When I can recall and accept that it does take all kinds, the day seems less stressful.
The next person that came to my attention is Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. She learned early from experience the meaning of respect. Her book, “Respect” is a series of stories about people she calls “practitioners of respect.” I love this phrase; it’s an elegant expression, elevating respect to the level of learned professionalism.
Her insights come from hours of collaboration with and observations of these practitioners as they go about their daily activity, each revealing different “dimensions of respect” that often go unnoticed.
Think of “learned professionalism” as the lawyer who learns how to practice law or the doctor who learns the practice of health care or the person who excels at being a motivational speaker.
In these examples and many others they are regarded as professionals in their field. Likewise, we should consider respect as a learned skill; a behavior, that when steadily practiced becomes professionalized.
Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot captures respectful behaviors with individual stories of two health-care providers, a school teacher, an artist-photographer, an Episcopal priest and a law school professor. Each story reveals a dimension of respect through either: empowerment; healing; dialogue; curiosity; self-respect or attention.
In the next article I’ll begin taking a look at how these practitioner’s behaviors translate as respect. I’m sure you’ve heard – “respect is something you give rather than receive.”
In many ways this is true; however the one who is respectful of others receives much more than they give. You may feel that you already know this, but you’ll be surprised to find out there’s more to respect than you think.
To Be Continued