The times in my life where I didn’t feel respected, I got overwhelmed by even thinking about trying to turn it around. I bashed myself. My self-esteem tanked.
I know how frustrating and painful it can be to not be respected, and I will share my most valuable methods for how to get out of that place.
No matter what this lack of respect looks like in your life, it can be fixed:
Like with most lifestyle changes (and that’s what this is!), becoming a person who is worthy of respect can be done by making one small change at a time.
Who are we?
This article is written by me, David Morin (Social life expert and founder of SocialPro) with massive help from B. Sc Amanda Haworth and B. Sc Viktor Sander.
Because we are three people who’ve written this article, we’ve been able to tackle respect from three different perspectives and create a guide to respect that really works, no matter where you’re coming from.
Let’s first talk about how to earn respect by first respecting yourself.
- 1: Conveying Self-Respect
- 2: Self-Presentation
- 3: Standing by your opinions and beliefs
- 4: Developing a Presence
- 5: Handling Interruptions
- 6: Using “Enforceable Boundaries”
- 7: Having a Conversation About Boundaries
- 8: What to do when someone crosses your boundaries
- 9: Dealing with someone who tries to dominate you
- 10: Earn Respect By Dealing With Conflicts without Losing Your Cool
- 11: Earn Respect By Being a Leader
- 12: Earn Respect Through Becoming Good at Talking and Communicating
- 13: Earn Respect Through Body Language
- 14: Earn Respect By Giving Respect
- 15: Earn Respect By Admitting When You’re Wrong
- 17: Minimizing Apologies
- 18: What to Say Instead of “Sorry”
1: Conveying Self-Respect
When you talk about yourself to others, what messages are you sending?
If your attitude and behavior are sending messages that say “I’m no good,” “I’m terrible at everything,” “I don’t like myself at all,” “I’m not worth your time,” etc., they’re probably going to believe you.
I realized that I talked down on myself by joking on my own behalf and constantly conveying that I wasn’t good.
Self-depreciating humor can be great, but it should be obvious that there’s no truth to it. When Obama joked that he couldn’t turn down the AC in the oval office, that was funny, because no one doubted his power. When I joked about being lonely on the weekends, it painted a picture of me as a lonely person, and it also communicated that I didn’t respect myself.
You shouldn’t brag. But you also shouldn’t be afraid to stand for what’s good about you. Here are some examples of things we want to be able to stand by:
- “I work hard”
- “I’m a great friend”
- “I care a lot about other people”
- “I’m trustworthy and responsible”
- “I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles in my life”
- “I’m proud of who I am”
This doesn’t mean you need to tell people these things directly.
Instead, communicate your self-respect through:
- The jokes you make (a lot of self-deprecating humor, or humor that puts other people down, will not earn you respect)
- The things you laugh at (and, more importantly, refuse to laugh at)
- The places you go/things you participate in
- How you describe yourself, your work or your life when someone asks
- The things you post on social media (and the things you like/comment on)
Keep in mind that “humble bragging” will not earn respect either. Here’s my rule of thumb for standing for who you are while not bragging:
Feel no urge to tell people what’s good about you. Feel no fear to stand by who you are when you talk about yourself.
The way that you present yourself determines what people see when they look at you and how much people will respect you.
- If you behave appropriately in any given situation
- (For example, are you making jokes during a time when you should be serious? Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing at work? Etc.)
- If you dress appropriately for any given situation
- If you stand straight up with a good posture or hide in the corner of a room.
- If you speak clearly, deliberately, and with appropriate language for the situation
Self-presentation is a really important part of being respected because it indicates how much you respect yourself.
Sometimes we don’t dress or behave in a way that demonstrates that we respect ourselves. As a result, others won’t respect us, either.
3: Standing by your opinions and beliefs
Our opinions and beliefs change throughout life. And that’s a good thing. After all – that’s how we grow as a person. But what we DON’T want to do is to compromise our beliefs in order to fit in. When we do, we don’t respect ourselves.
I have a friend who has traditional Christian beliefs. This is rare in Sweden where he lives. However, everyone respects him. Why? Well, he never hides his beliefs. When someone asks, he stands up for what he thinks. But here’s the twist: He also has no urge to push his beliefs onto anyone else, or even judge anyone else for not believing what he believes in.
This is the sweet spot: Being totally comfortable with your opinions and beliefs, and also being totally comfortable with others thinking or believing something else.
If you feel that you will have to say, do, or be something in order to earn respect that you don’t want to say, do, or be, then don’t do it! Don’t be afraid to tell them why.
4: Developing a Presence
Many people who struggle with being respected by their friends and family feel that they have no voice.
Often this looks like being ignored, interrupted, or talked over. Maybe people just don’t pay much attention to you when you speak. Perhaps your opinions are overlooked or your feelings are brushed aside.
Making yourself heard will help you develop more of a social presence, and this presence will earn respect from the people around you. Having a social presence will cause people to take you more seriously when you talk.
Keep in mind that it’s important to make yourself heard in a respectful way; like I’ll address in later sections, losing your cool or being disrespectful will have the opposite effect from what you’re trying to accomplish.
A lawyer named Janet Kole writes about earning respect through making yourself heard in this article. She says:
The most important thing you can do in any situation is make sure you are being heard.
And I mean this literally.
Here’s one example: I was trying a federal civil case with a jury against two parties represented by male lawyers. Both were much taller than I and had longer strides. One of them asked for a sidebar, and both men made it to the bench before I did and they started talking to the judge.
I was pissed off, of course, but didn’t want to let the jury see me sweat. So I gathered my “outdoor” voice, the one that carries throughout a courtroom, and said: “Just a minute, gentlemen. I’ll be right there.” All three men—the judge and the other lawyers—looked quite shamefaced, and they stopped talking until I got there.
I didn’t believe they started without me because they looked down on me or overlooked me or hated female lawyers. . . But I was not going to be left out; I was not going to let myself be dissed. . . In short, I asserted myself.
Notice that, despite feeling upset, she did not say anything disrespectful or show that she was angry. Instead, she made a comment that simply reminded the others of her presence. She was assertive without being aggressive.
5: Handling Interruptions
If your comment gets ignored or interrupted, you can say:
- “Just a second, I’d like to finish my thought.”
- “I’m sorry, we got off tracked. What I was saying was that ___________.”
- “Like I was saying before, ___________.”
- “Please let me speak.”
As Psychology Today author Temma Ehrenfeld points out in this article, not all interruptions are intended to belittle you and not all should be addressed in the same way. For example, in a lively group conversation, people interrupt each other from time to time. That’s OK and not about being disrespectful.
But if you’re consistently being interrupted and ignored, allowing the problem to persist will cause your presence– and the level of respect others give you– to continue to shrink.
Making yourself heard will not only boost your self-esteem, it will also make people aware of your presence– a presence they respect.
Another important aspect is setting boundaries…
6: Using “Enforceable Boundaries”
If you feel like you’re often taken advantage of (you’re a “doormat,” so to speak), then this section is particularly important for you.
The number one way to avoid being taken advantage of (which indicates a lack of respect) is to set clear, enforced boundaries with the people in your life. This will earn their respect by showing them that you respect yourself enough to control what happens to you.
When setting boundaries, first consider the things that you have control over. The things that are within your control are the easiest boundaries to set because they are easiest to enforce. Do not try to set a boundary that you will be unable to enforce; this will only set you up for failure, which will cause you to further lose the respect of others.
For example, you can control who comes into your house and who doesn’t (and if you ever find yourself in a situation where you can’t control who’s entering your house, you should call the police).
Let’s say that you feel that you’re being taken advantage of by friends who come over to your house any time they want, eating your food and sleeping on your couch without asking or contributing money for groceries.
In this case, you can set a boundary that states that no one can come to your house between the hours of 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. without your permission or invitation.
Another example is if you feel you are being taken advantage of in your workplace.
There are certain aspects of your job that you can control because there are labor laws in place that protect the rights of employees. Because there are measures you can take if your employer is not following these laws, this is something that you have control over and can enforce.
Perhaps your boss asks you to complete certain tasks even after you’ve clocked out for the day, and you end up working for several hours without pay.
In this situation, you need to set a boundary with your boss that (respectfully) states that you will not work if you’re not on the clock. If your boss would like you to do more work, you must first be allowed to clock in.
7: Having a Conversation About Boundaries
Once you have decided what boundaries you need to set, you must have a conversation with the other people involved to make them aware of these boundaries.
Like with any difficult conversation, you should carefully choose a time and place for having it. Make sure to avoid accusatory statements such as “You always ________,” or “You never ________.”
Instead, say things like “I feel ________ when _________ happens,” or “I’ve noticed that ___________ has been happening a lot and this causes a problem for me because ___________.”
Before initiating the conversation, make sure you have a clear idea of what boundaries you are informing the other person of and how you will enforce them. After you explain what the problem is and how it’s affecting you (using the format above), tell them what the boundary is. You can say:
“Because of [this problem], I feel it’s important to set some boundaries. From now on, __________________.”
Explain how this boundary will help solve the problem you’re having, but make an effort to be understanding of how this boundary will change things for them as well. There is almost always a reason why people do the things they do, so it’s helpful to be considerate of the other person’s circumstances that may have caused them to behave a certain way.
You can even suggest ways that their needs can still be met without you being taken advantage of (i.e. ask your friends to call first if they need a place to sleep or contribute money if they frequently eat at your house; offer to help your boss find an extra employee to hire or suggest ways that more work can get done during the time that you’re on the clock).
8: What to do when someone crosses your boundaries
Even once you’ve set boundaries in your life, there is a chance that the line will still be crossed. Sometimes people simply forget because they’ve been doing things a certain way for so long, but in some situations, people just refuse to be respectful.
When this happens, your next step should be to have another conversation with them about it. Explain again why the things they’re doing are problematic for you, what your boundaries are, and why you’ve set them. Explain that if they can’t respect your boundaries, then more drastic changes will have to be made (such as your house being totally off-limits in the future, reporting your boss, or finding a new job).
Unfortunately, there are times when it becomes necessary to eliminate certain people from your life altogether. If people continue crossing your set boundaries and attempting to take advantage of you, you may have to consider cutting contact with them completely.
Not only is setting enforceable boundaries a necessary part of self-care, it will also serve to earn you more respect from the people around you by showing that you won’t tolerate disrespect and mistreatment from the people in your life.
Here’s a relevant article I’ve written about what to do if you’re helping others but not getting anything back.
9: Dealing with someone who tries to dominate you
Sometimes people joke on our behalf or try to force us to make them favors or just being straight up bullies. Instead of going into this topic here, I’ve written a popular article on the subject here: How to always have the upper hand on someone who tries to dominate you.
10: Earn Respect By Dealing With Conflicts without Losing Your Cool
The way that you handle situations, particularly stressful and upsetting situations, affects how much respect people show you. Even when you’ve set clear boundaries, like I talked above, conflict will still be an inevitable part of life.
You probably know people who are likely to lose their cool in the face of conflict or stress. Maybe you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around those people, afraid of how they’ll react if something goes wrong.
If you’re prone to losing your temper or overreacting in certain situations, it’s probably affecting the respect with which people see you.
Learning how to have difficult conversations with people can have a huge impact on the amount of respect you receive. Here’s how to address a conflict in a way that make people respect you more:
- Be prepared with some suggestions for improving the problem before you have the conversation
- Have the conversation in private instead of making a scene
- Plan a time to have the conversation (after you’ve cooled down) instead of confronting someone in the heat of the moment
- Use “I feel” and “I think” instead of making accusatory statements such as “You always ____.”
- Keep yourself calm; make an effort not to get defensive or upset
- Be understanding of the other person’s circumstances; tell them you understand and want to work with them to find a solution that is beneficial for both of you
- Be honest with yourself about ways you might have worsened the situation/things you could do differently moving forward
- Admit when you’re wrong
Learning to keep your calm and handle situations appropriately is a huge factor in how much respect you will earn from others.
11: Earn Respect By Being a Leader
Leadership skills are one of the most sought-after attributes from employers around the world. And there’s a reason for that: leadership is the driving force behind accomplishing goals.
Whether those goals are for productivity in your workplace or the goal within your group of friends is simply to have fun, being a leader means being a person who helps the rest achieve what it is they desire.
Being a leader also means standing up for what you believe is right, even if it goes against what others want or believe.
By helping people accomplish goals and standing up for what you believe is right, you will earn the respect of the people around you. Here are some practical ways to earn respect by being a leader:
- Take initiative in situations where you are knowledgeable or skilled
- Set short term and long term goals and come up with step-by-step plans for achieving them (find goal-setting worksheets here)
- Make sure you’re being heard
- Keep your word– do what you say you’re going to do
- Do all things to the best of your ability
- Do what you believe is right, even if it’s different than what everyone else is doing
- Treat others with respect at all times
- Handle stressful situations and conflicts appropriately
12: Earn Respect Through Becoming Good at Talking and Communicating
Having great communication skills means having the ability to make conversation on a wide variety of topics. I’ve created several very popular videos and articles on how to make conversation. Instead of linking all of them here, I recommend you to sign up for my free conversation email training here.
In addition to having good conversation and listening skills, good communication means conveying your thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly and in a way that is easily understood.
This starts with simply thinking about what you want to say before you start speaking so that your thoughts don’t tumble out of your mouth in a complicated (and embarrassing) mess.
This also means avoiding the use of “uh” and “um” when you speak, which are “fillers” and make the conversation harder to follow.
Also be careful about the conversation topics you choose. Crude or vulgar jokes and stories can be offensive to many people and should be avoided if you’d like to earn respect.
13: Earn Respect Through Body Language
Your body language sends silent messages to everyone who sees you, so it’s very important to assess what your body language is saying– and what you want it to be saying instead.
For starters, your body language can tell people how you feel about yourself– and we already discussed why self-respect is so necessary for earning the respect of others.
If you walk around with your shoulders hunched, arms crossed, and eyes directed towards the ground, you will be perceived as shy, afraid, or insecure. None of these are qualities that demand respect.
However, if your body language portrays confidence, people will automatically believe that there must be a good reason for you to be confident and therefore you must be worthy of their respect in some way.
These are the characteristics of confident body language:
- Eye contact when speaking and being spoken to
- Good posture; no slouching or crossing your arms
- Walking with a purpose (not wondering around staring at the floor)
- Using hand gestures when speaking (instead of keeping your hands shoved in your pockets)
Keep in mind that while confident people may earn others’ respect, arrogant people will lose it. Make sure you know the difference, and strive to convey confidence through your body language in the ways we mentioned above.
14: Earn Respect By Giving Respect
Take a second to think about some of the most disrespectful people you’ve ever encountered.
Do you respect those people?
The answer is probably not.
The truth is, the quickest way to shatter your reputation and lose all respect someone may have for you is by speaking or behaving disrespectfully to someone else.
Is it okay to get mad or upset or offended? Yes! You are human, and we’re all going to have those moments. It’s how you handle them that counts.
Being mad or upset or offended are all acceptable reactions when someone mistreats you, but responding to those reactions in a disrespectful way is not acceptable.
On the other hand, showing respect to people even when you feel they don’t deserve it will go a long way towards earning respect from others.
Here’s why it works: When you behave respectfully even though the other person doesn’t necessarily deserve it in that moment, you are proving that you’re “the bigger person.”
Your show of respect will demonstrate your self control, your level-headedness, your ability to think on your feet, and the fact that even in their moment of weakness you still respect that person on the basis that they are a human being.
All of those characteristics are worthy of respect, and you will earn that respect both from the person you responded to and from anyone who’s watching simply because you refused to treat someone poorly when you could have.
You’ve probably heard the “Golden Rule”:
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
This is the basis of the concept of earning respect through giving it. You’ve probably had a bad day before, or a bad week, or even a bad year. Give other people the benefit of the doubt when they’re behaving poorly and understand that they may be going through something that you don’t know about. Choose to treat them with respect anyway.
15: Earn Respect By Admitting When You’re Wrong
I mentioned this briefly when discussing how to handle conflicts, but let’s dive a little deeper into this important topic.
To understand why it’s so important to have the ability to admit when you’re wrong, think about a person who refuses to admit it when they’ve clearly made a mistake.
People who stand their ground even after they realize they’ve messed up are doing so out of pride. Prideful people quickly lose the respect of their peers.
Be careful not to mistake “pride” with the idea of being proud of who you are. Being proud of who you are is a type of self respect, while a prideful attitude is one people have when they believe themselves to be better than others.
Pride is an unattractive quality that ruins reputations and relationships, and should be corrected if it’s something you struggle with. This simply requires you to balance your self-respect with a good dose of humility and a measure of respect for the people around you.
Admitting when you’re wrong is always humbling. No one enjoys making mistakes. But the reality is that we all make mistakes, and at some point we’re all going to be wrong. Being able to admit it will earn you respect from others while simultaneously preserving your reputation and your relationships with them.
Here are some things you can say when you realize you’re in the wrong:
- “I’ve thought about what you said, and I think you’re right.”
- “I know I disagreed with you before, but what you said makes a lot of sense. I think you’re right.”
- “I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I was wrong about __________.”
- “I was wrong when I _________. Can you forgive me?”
Not only does admitting when you’re wrong prevent you from looking foolish by sticking to your guns when you know you’ve made a mistake, it also shows the other person that you value them and their opinions. This will actually strengthen your relationship, while refusing to admit you’re wrong will have the opposite effect of tearing you apart.
17: Minimizing Apologies
Have you ever been to a crowded concert and had someone accidentally spill their drink on you? Out of pure habit, you utter an “I’m sorry,” even though you clearly did nothing wrong and are now covered in margarita.
Over-apologizing is a sign that you’re more submissive than dominant. While “submissive” and “dominant” can both be bad things in extremes, finding the right balance (i.e. knowing when to step up and when to back down) will help you earn the respect of others and avoid being a pushover.
The other problem with “I’m sorry” is that it gives the impression that you’re in the wrong, even if you aren’t. In fact, many hospitals even have policies that prevent doctors from apologizing if something goes wrong because it makes them appear guilty.
If you want to gain respect, you’ll need to save your apologies for the times that you’re actually sorry (such as when you’re the person that accidentally spills your margarita on a perfect stranger).
18: What to Say Instead of “Sorry”
One way to stop saying “I’m sorry” too often is by replacing the phrase with a simple “thank you.” When you say “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry,” you’re changing the entire dynamic of the conversation and how the other person will perceive you.
“Thank you” shows appreciation to the other person for their time and switches your mindset from an apologetic one to one of gratitude. The other person will also appreciate not needing to reassure you that you’ve done nothing wrong, too.
Another thing to say instead of “Sorry” is “Excuse me.” If you bump into someone or need to get past them, saying “Excuse me” is a perfectly polite way to let them know without having to apologize for your presence.
Don’t apologize for your mere presence, for stating your opinion, or for disagreeing. You don’t need to apologize if you don’t want to do something, either.
Your opinions and presence matter, which means that apologies are not necessary for just being around. By not “sorry-ing” your way through life, you’ll be more respected.
Now it’s time to choose one or two tips from our list to focus on to gain more respect from others. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Remember, becoming a person who earns respect from others is a lifestyle change! Take it at your own pace. Once you’ve mastered one respect tactic, choose another one to work on.
Leave a comment now letting us know what tip you’re going to work on improving and why you think it will work for you. If you see someone that has a problem you overcame in the past, lend them a helping hand and give them a bit of advice on how you worked through it.
SocialPro is here to help, so if you have any concerns or hesitations whatsoever (and we mean whatsoever), don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know how we can better help you.