fbpx Skip to main content

“Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love”

Miguel Angel Ruiz


The word respect is derived from the Latin word “respectus” meaning attention, consideration or regard.

When someone dies, we pay our respects, we celebrate their life and share our thoughts and memories about what we admired about the person, their qualities and strengths.

We seek respect for ourselves in our own lives too because it shows we’ve been acknowledged as a fellow human being, we’re valued, and it makes feel accepted for who we are.

But too often showing respect for others goes missing in action; overlooked because we were too busy to notice or hear the cheery ‘good morning’ from our colleague, too disengaged to really sense the intensity of the pain of a friend who shared how they had been racially abused on the bus on the way to work, too tired to care how our snappy and dismissive response to the effort of the most junior member of the team seeking to add their contribution to an important project was hurtful and unwarranted.

Respect enables us to shine as individuals because it provokes strong positive emotions.

How does feeling respected make you feel?

Happy, energised, honoured, important?

How does that impact how you show up every day and how you interact with others?

Respect elevates our sense of significance – and that self-image, how we are perceived by others matters to us a great deal, even though we often try to pretend it doesn’t. In his book, The Social Cognitive Neuroscience of Leading Organisational Change (don’t let the title put you off, it’s a very good read!), neuroscientist Robert A Synder shares his belief that our self-image is the lens through which we perceive all of our social needs and determines our behaviour.

I am often reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “what other people think of you, is none of your business” which I think can be helpful in the short term if we feel slighted, have heard others speaking unkindly about us, or have received an unpleasant text or tweet.

But while distancing ourselves from the source of our pain can be helpful initially, it doesn’t lead to changing the behaviour of the person or persons that caused it. By choosing to stay quiet and ignoring disrespectful behaviour, this type of social abuse while abhorred ends up being tolerated.

When this happens at a societal level, where difference is deliberately treated as justification to inflict social pain, it creates a social divide and a sense of injustice. Simmering tensions bubble up to the surface from time to time but unless it is addressed, we’re stoking the fire of discontent.

If you’ve ever gotten really angry with someone, you may recall how what started as a mild disagreement rapidly disintegrated into a very loud and unpleasant slanging match. Spittle and unkind words stinging our face and our psyche. It’s unpleasant and exhausting on both sides.

Add in the extras of fear, uncertainty and stress and the intensity of that outburst now rises to the next level.

Which is why at this time of massive threat from an invisible enemy that has the potential to kill us, along with the threat of entering a period of recession if not a depression, it’s time to reset and create a post-COVID world founded on respect, love, compassion and kindness.


Showing respect builds social cohesion

Dr Ellen Weber, Director of the MITA Brain Based Center works in the area of raising motivation and innovation using a brain-based approach to learning and leading. She talks about how social fairness and respect encourages trust, a growth-oriented mindset and strengthens our desire to connect, contribute and collaborate.

This is because when you receive praise, feel supported or encouraged this boosts levels of serotonin and oxytocin in your brain.

The difference this makes on a daily basis is when you enjoy the respect of your colleagues and boss at work, you are more likely to arrive with the positive anticipation of having a good day. If you’re good at your job and enjoy what you do, the thing that will keep you at that job will be less about the money (though that does help of course) and more about the relationships you have with those around you.

The 2015 Society of Human Resource Management Survey found that respectful treatment to the most important factor in job satisfaction.

This is social intelligence at work: the ability to know and understand ourselves well enough to also understand how we influence and impact others.


The benefits of respect

Showing respect to others is contagious, moreover, it has a number of other benefits.

Respect builds engagement

Working for a respected leader has been linked to an increase of 15% in engagement, according to a white paper by Jostle, and respect comes from consistently demonstrating your competence, integrity, humility and transparency. While feeling respected by your manager or leader is one of the four basic needs to feel good and perform better  as revealed by Tony Schwartz and Christin Porath in their 2014 survey

It promotes psychological safety

Respect provides us with security. It feels safe to speak up, share ideas and knowledge. It also enhances a sense of fairness. A respectful working environment does not tolerate harassment or bullying.

It provides the freedom to be you

When you have respect you can be true to yourself and your own identity. There’s no need to try to fit in or be someone you’re not.

Building respect looks like:

  • Sharing all your toys
  • Taking responsibility for your own mistakes
  • Saying hello with a genuine smile and eye contact
  • Saying sorry and meaning it
  • Asking for help
  • Playing fair
  • Being inclusive
  • Listening more than you speak
  • Being empathetic

Building respect for ourselves, for our friends, family and colleagues demonstrates our humanity. It makes us better human beings.

That’s good for us, it’s good for business and it’s good for our communities.

It contributes to building a Thriving Mind.

How does respect show up in your life?

If you’re interested to find out more about the benefits of respect and psychological safety for productivity and happiness, I’m hosting a free webinar on June 17th. Registration is essential – you can register here.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, keynote speaker and best-selling author. You can now pre-order her new book ‘The Natural Advantage’ due for publication in October 2024.

Leave a Reply