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How to Command Respect (Without Relying on Cheap Tricks)

Subhajit Banerjee

March 3, 2024


What do Rodney Dangerfield and the Mexican drug cartel boss have in common?

They both don’t seem to get enough respect.

But it’s not just a problem limited to gagsters of the greatest generation or Mexican meth moguls.

Respect is an innate need for everyone.

Feeling respected makes you feel secure about your place in the world.

But when you feel you’re not – it affects your wellbeing.

Neurology also confirms that a lack of respect depletes your serotonin level and makes you unhappy.

So, it’s natural that you want to command respect from others.

But this is where most people make a crucial mistake…

The self-help pop-tactics – do they work?

They turn towards the pop-tactics of the self-help industry.

They buy expensive courses to learn power and charisma moves.

Now, I can understand the appeal of these courses.

They promise a quick fix to an emotional pain.

Just Google it, and you’ll see “experts” trying to promote silly advice like staring people down or trying to intimidate them with a crushing handshake.

But these are just scare tactics.

Maybe that works in a high-security prison (though I doubt it).

But in a corporate setting or among other entrepreneurs, you’ll just earn contempt.

It tells them you think you’re better than they are.

This is not how you earn respect. Trying to bully respect out of people backfires (and you’ll soon see why).

Another appeal is the promise of “ready-to-go” solutions instead of working on real, lasting change.

People want tricks to impress high-status folks and attractive people. They want an entry to connect and build relationships with them.

But when it’s time to step up, a nagging voice inside tells them they’re not good enough.

Those power moves are just a desperate bid to fight that voice. It’s like wearing a mask to hide your true self.

You hope these tricks will help you control others, push them to agree with you, or make them follow your lead.

Sometimes it works. But most of the time, it doesn’t, leaving you to lick your wounds.

And if you have been wearing this mask long enough, you know how suffocating it can be. You have to second guess everything – from what you say to how you appear.

True respect is not about wearing disguises. It’s about the courage to pull that disguise off.

Psychologist Randy J Patterson also says – respect is about taking your rightful place on the stage and doing so without pushing anyone down.

So if cheap, short-term tactics are what you’re after, this edition is not for you. Feel free to stop reading and delete this email.

But if you want to build genuine, long-term respect, keep reading…

Respect – a peek under the hood

So, what exactly is genuine respect?

It’s about showing courtesy, admiration, or deference.

You respect someone because you think they’ve done something great. Or they have qualities that earn them esteem in your eyes.

If you don’t feel this esteem, then you start losing respect for them. And that lack shows up in your actions.

When you believe in the innate value of human beings, you show a common courtesy to all, no matter who they are.

Without this belief, you become rude towards others or start crossing boundaries.

It may give the illusion of power, but all you’re building is resentment. (Someone needs to explain this to Trump. Have you seen those awkward handshake videos?)

Moreover, you have every right to demand that same courtesy from others, regardless of who they are.

When you lack that, you become a people pleaser, and allow others to overstep your limits and overwhelm you.

This may make you feel kind and considerate, but all you’re doing is losing respect and becoming a target for mockery.

Admiration and deference are a different ball game though.

You may choose to admire someone or defer to someone (which are higher orders of respect ). But you cannot demand the same from anyone.

Admiration and deference have to grow organically. But, you can work on being the kind of person others respect and admire (more on that later).

One important question here…

Is it worth trying to gain respect from everyone?

Like the person who rudely cuts you off in traffic, the impatient uncle at the hospital, or the pushy person at the gym?

Definitely not.

They’re struggling with their own issues, lashing out at anyone in their way.

They don’t even see their own worth, so how can they see yours?

The best approach is not to take their negativity to heart. Stay firm with your boundaries, yet treat them with compassion.

My rule is – everyone gets my courtesy. But my respect and admiration has to be earned.

And I work to earn the same from those I respect and admire.

This philosophy has worked well for me. You might find it useful, too.

Strategies to command genuine respect

Now you know what genuine respect is all about and what it feels like.

So let me share some real strategies on how to command it from others.

Own your space

Earlier, I talked about 2 components of respect – respect for yourself and others.

Let’s focus on the first one.

What does respecting yourself mean?

It means embracing who you are, warts and all.

How do you do that?

You dig deep and shed light on the darker, unloved parts of you.

Parts like anger, aggression, sexuality, selfishness, and greed. Parts you were taught to be ashamed of by your parents and society. Parts you wish never existed within you.

But rejecting those parts doesn’t make them disappear. They’re as much a part of you as your kindness, love, generosity, patience, wisdom, and intelligence – the traits that society values.

You just learn how to suppress them.

Suppressing strong emotions like them and keeping them out of your awareness takes a great deal of energy. Denying and hiding this truth from others makes you feel like an imposter. You battle with fear of being discovered for “who you really are.”

True freedom comes when you accept that you have a “darker” side. It comes from accepting that you are not as nice as you pretend to be. And it comes when you stop demonizing those parts and stop fighting them.

This “shadow” side of you is your greatest source of power.

When you accept this, you start to feel lighter and more energized. The oppressive sense of shame and guilt lifts. You start to like yourself.

You stop fighting with yourself. You become okay with who you are and stop worrying about what others think of you.

You start to say what you think, ask for what you want, and speak your truth – with your friends, in intimate relationships, or at work. You say what needs to be said, even if it’s uncomfortable.

You no longer feel the need to play the status games.

You feel on top of the world even while walking around in a plain t-shirt and flip-flops. Women turn around and look at you. You’re no longer anxious about making and maintaining eye contact. You feel you can connect with anyone.

You don’t rely on cheap tactics. You’re filled with a strong belief that you’ll be okay, no matter what.

You stop getting bothered by perceived or intentional slights. You stop feeling the urge to respond to every one of them.

When you do respond, you respond out of curiosity. You respond with love, laughter, and warmth – all genuine, nothing fake.

You have the effect of calming down the nervous systems of others. You create savings in the body budget of others. They trust you more, making it easier for you to influence them.

My life took a drastic change when I embraced this philosophy.

It transformed the relationship with my family members from one filled with disrespect, contempt, and resentment to one with mutual respect, consideration, and love.

My relationship with my wife became a dream – marked by comfort, openness, and a lack of judgment and criticism.

At work, I started contributing value without getting bogged down with the rank and designation of the people present in the meeting. I started taking a stand against unfair treatment for myself and my team.

I have lost count of the compliments I’ve received for how calm and relaxed I seem even in tense situations. I earned respect and appreciation from my bosses, peers, and my team. I started gunning after promotions and raises and started receiving them.

I guide my clients through this transformation as well.

Empowered by this transformation, my clients have set boundaries against mooching relatives, bagged praises and appreciation at work, established firm boundaries with employees, and stood up to narcissistic bosses.

This transformation isn’t easy though. It takes time and patience.

But once you make this shift, people around you can sense that. It draws them to you like a magnet.

At that point, you will no longer need articles like this one to build respect.

It will come to you – unasked.

But until then, here are a few strategies that will help you own your space:

Mind your and others’ boundaries

Understand what behaviors you will accept and which you won’t.

State those boundaries clearly along with the consequences of breaking them. Enforce those boundaries. Follow through with the consequences when they’re breached.

Boundaries are meaningless if not enforced.

Know where you end and others begin.

Mind your sorries. Save them for when they are warranted.

When you apologize for others’ mistakes – it invites disrespect.

A strong leader owns up to their actions and those of their team. They are respected more for doing so.

But don’t apologize for things out of your control or for the things that make you who you are.

If others are uncomfortable with your confidence, competence, or caliber, that’s their problem, not yours.

Share your shortcomings

People do not care about your flaws as much as you think they do. They’re too busy living in the shadow of their own

They care how YOU perceive your flaws.

So own who you are. Walk into a room like you belong there. Joke about your flaws instead of taking them too seriously.

You will appear as close to perfect as they come.

Share your values

Your values are what sets you apart as a human.

Spend some time and effort to craft them. And share them with people.

Explain why you believe in them and why you do what you do.

This helps people understand you better. If there’s a disagreement, they’re less likely to take it personally.

But the flip side is, if you share your values – you’ll have to stick to them.

Stay true to your word. Protect your integrity at all costs (and I really mean at all costs).

Sticking to our words and promises is what makes us human. It sets us apart from animals.

No one respects a flip-flopper.

Never shy away from honest conflict

Most people avoid conflicts.

They are afraid of the consequences. They don’t want to upset others. They want to keep everyone happy.

It’s a good strategy – if you just want to blend in.

But if you want respect then speak up, especially when you’re most afraid to do it.

It’s okay to show even a bit of vulnerability here. If the topic is a sensitive one, say that it makes you uncomfortable.

People admire it when you tackle tough topics, even if it costs you.

But do it from a place of kindness and compassion, not from a place of malice.

Putting your point across is enough. You don’t need to tear someone down to prove it.

The aim is to build understanding, not to boost your ego.

“Honest conflict has more social value than dishonest harmony”
– Joe Rogan

Have the courage to ask for help and critique from others

Let me tell you the story of Gilgamesh, the semi-divine king of Uruk.

His superhuman strength turned him into a tyrant. The people of Uruk begged the gods for relief from his oppression.

The gods responded by creating Enkidu.

Enkidu and Gilgamesh fought with each other and found themselves to be equals in strength. They grew to admire and respect each other and became friends.

Together, they decided to confront the ogre Humbaba.

At first, Gilgamesh was terrified. But with guidance and counsel from Enkidu, Gilgamesh defeated the ogre.

So what’s my point here?

Even the mightiest need help.

The “lone wolf” idea seems appealing because it strokes the ego. Standing alone feels safer since it avoids the risk of disappointment.

But there’s nothing glorious about suffering in silence. The world is too complex and challenging to go at it solo.

The truly strong and respected are those who have the courage to admit they need help.

They have confidence in their abilities. But they are also open to accepting help and guidance from others when they need it.

“The single most valuable thing you will ever learn is to accept help when it’s offered and to ask for it when you know you can’t do it alone.”
– Simon Sinek

Get a grip on your stress response

Last year, we took a family trip with some of our neighbors.

While having lunch at a restaurant, the kids finished eating and started exploring the place.

The wash basin was in a corner behind an awkwardly placed door. Once inside, you couldn’t see if someone was outside, especially a child.

One neighbor, let’s call him S, was washing his hands when my son arrived.

They both tried to open the door at the same time and my son got his fingers pinched.

He ran to me, crying. I calmly asked what happened, checked his fingers (they were okay but had started to swell), and soothed his fears.

Then S came running, hyperventilating from guilt (though it wasn’t even his fault).

I modulated my voice to what Chris Voss calls “late-night FM DJ voice” (more on that later) and asked him to bring me a cup of ice water from the restaurant. By then my son was already starting to calm down.

I had him soak his fingers in the ice water until the swelling began to go down. Soon, he was back to running around with his friends.

Later, S and some neighbors asked me how I could stay so calm and composed. What’s my secret sauce?

I explained that if it had been a serious issue, swift action would have been necessary. However, since it was not, getting upset wouldn’t help.

And it was important for me to stay calm. My son would be taking cues from my reaction to gauge how bad his injury was.

In an emergency (real or perceived), your stress response naturally activates, to help you deal with it.

But you should be able to evaluate the situation. And if it’s not a real threat (like a bear chasing you), you should be able to control your stress response and return back to a relaxed state.

Being able to do that in situations like this is rare. It earns you immediate respect.

I’ve noticed this dynamic play out time and again at work.

The guy who keeps his cool and controls their stress response gains influence, respect, and admiration.

If you panic in tough situations and let it show, it lowers people’s confidence in you.

You lose respect.

So learn to control your stress response (this article will teach you how).

Give others their space

Usually, people-pleasers let others walk all over them in the name of being respectful.

But something interesting happens at the start of their healing journey.

For a while, when processing years of built-up resentment, they blame everyone around them for their pain. I call it the “blame it all on others” phase.

This leads to a lot of drama, outbursts – and sometimes invading others’ space and crossing boundaries.

I’ve been through this myself. It’s crucial to move past this phase and regain your balance.

You have to learn how to give respect to get respect.

Here are some key ways to do that:

Learn to speak last

Nelson Mandela once shared how he learned to be a leader.

He accompanied Jongintaba (the tribal king who raised him) to meetings when he was young. At these meetings, Jongintaba would gather his men in a circle and always wait until they’d all spoken before he spoke.

Mandela earned his leadership chops from those meetings.

“The chief’s job,” Mandela said, “is not to tell people what to do but to form a consensus. Don’t enter the debate too early. Learn to be the last to speak”.

Along with that, learn to ask great questions.

This gives you two benefits.

You get to hear what others think. And they get the feeling that they have been heard.

Avoid acting as if you have all the answers.

Instead, make others feel valued and respected. You’ll gain respect in return.

Praise others

Whenever my team members do something noteworthy I make it a point to highlight it. I do that in the team meetings, to the clients, and to the senior leaders.

People love feeling appreciated.

So shower praise when they do something worth celebrating, no matter how small or big

It shows you’re confident in your position and are not afraid to prop others up. This earns you respect.

But, be genuine. Fake compliments can come off as manipulative.

And nobody likes to be played.

Allow space for nuance

No one is always completely right or wrong.

Keep this in mind, especially in debates and arguments.

Show others that you understand them, even if you don’t agree with them.

After our son was born, my wife and I went through a tough time in our relationship.

We both got into the bad habit of sticking to our opinions and minimizing the other person’s view.

After a lot of reflection and difficult conversations, we set clear boundaries around this behavior. And our relationship improved in leaps and bounds.

Resist the ego’s urge to see your opinion as the only truth.

That attitude doesn’t earn respect. It breeds resentment.

Criticize the behavior, not the person

No one likes to be criticized. Seems Socrates wasn’t a fan of it either.

He invented the Socratic Method. He asked questions to encourage critical thinking and self-reflection, rather than outright condemning someone’s beliefs or actions.

There’s a reason why he is so revered. You can take a leaf out of his book as well.

It’s okay to challenge someone’s ideas or actions. But never criticize who they are.

Here are a few rules to keep in mind during conflicts :

  • No name-calling.
  • No blanket statements.
  • No “you’re always” statements. When you do these things, you instantly lose respect

But remember, even attacking someone’s views can feel like attacking their identity.

So if you must critique, do so with kindness.

Learn to address bad behavior without being hurtful.

Tactics that work

Earlier, I threw a lot of shade on shady tactics.

But that doesn’t mean all tactics are bad.

So before you go, here are some tactics that actually work:

The art of eye contact.

A wise man once said the eyes are a portal to the soul, and he couldn’t be more right.

Eye contact is crucial when you’re talking to someone face-to-face.

Don’t be skittish with it. Hold it firmly.

You can break eye contact when forming your train of thought, and hold it softly when speaking.

Do not stare for too long though – you’ll come off as creepy.

Keep it light and play around with it.

It’s a great way to seem confident in what you’re saying.

Modulating your speech

Speak slowly in a controlled rhythm.

When you feel you’re going too fast – take a few deep breaths and extend your belly.

This is a tactic I always use in my team meetings.

It makes your voice heavier and creates the late-night FM DJ effect that I talked about earlier.

It has a soothing effect on others. And it makes you seem confident about what you’re saying.

Take small breaks between each sentence. Pause after important statements so people can soak it in,

It creates anticipation, it makes people want to know more of what you have to say.

When others interrupt or cut you off, you can either:

  • raise your voice slightly and continue talking
  • pause, agree, and continue your original thought
  • or acknowledge what is being said then return to completing your point

If the interruption happens repeatedly, you call it out while remaining calm.

It doesn’t mean that you hog others’ spotlight or talk non-stop.

But you should always finish your sentences when you have the floor, even if someone is trying to talk over you.

Try taking pauses mid-sentence.

If you pause too long after a sentence then people may consider it as a signal to start talking.

But when you pause in the middle, people know that you still have something to say and you’re not afraid of dead air.

It builds respect.

The late, great prime minister of India, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee was a master of this technique. Watch his speeches if you want to see a true orator at work.

Body language

Lean back and take up as much space as you need.

Move your arms to your side a little bit. People will perceive you as someone confident who’s not scared of being seen.

Before you enter a room roll your shoulders a couple of times. That increases the space between your hips and the bottom of your ribs naturally.

You will stand taller, feel more relaxed, and see an immediate difference in how people treat you.

 

That’s it for today.

I’ve shared all the strategies and tactics I know to help you command genuine respect.

I have tried and tested them in both professional and personal situations.

I hope you’ll make good use of them.

Wondering where to start?

Go back to the section about owning your space and try out a few steps.

Start using some strategies in your everyday life. Experiment with the tactics – they’re easy to start with.

Run a few experiments of your own. And don’t forget to tell me how they go.

I love getting your messages and reply to each one.

Can’t wait to hear about your next success story in my inbox!