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I know how frustrating and painful it can be when you’re not respected. People don’t listen to you, they brush your feelings aside, they never pick your ideas. You just don’t seem to matter to others.
I also know that no matter where you’re starting, you can quickly start getting more respected. All it takes is a few well-chosen steps in the right direction.
[Are you being disrespected by a specific person or by a few specific people? Then, you should read my popular guide “How to deal with someone who makes fun of you or tries to dominate you”.]
Here are the 15 best steps to start getting more respect in your life.
1. Make people take you seriously with this “status booster”
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, boost your social status through your actions:
- 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 do, and events you go to
- 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 humblebragging will not earn respect either. Here’s my rule of thumb for standing for who you are without 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.
[I have a friend who has different beliefs than most. He’s amazing at showing self-respect without being obnoxious. Read here what he does differently than almost everyone else.]
2. What to do when people take you for granted
If you feel like you’re often taken advantage of or that you’re too nice, then this is going to be extra important for you.
The number one way to stop others from taking advantage of you is to set clear, enforceable boundaries.
This method shows people they can’t take you for granted and that you expect they treat you with respect.
When setting boundaries, first consider the things that you have control over.
Don’t set a boundary that you can’t enforce.
Let’s say that you feel like your friend is taking advantage of you. They come over to your house any time they want, eat your food, and sleep on your couch. And they never ask for permission or contribute money for groceries.
In this case, you can set a boundary that no one can come to your house between 9 pm and 9 am without your permission or invitation.
Once you’ve decided what boundaries you need to set, you need to tell the person you’re having a problem with.
There is almost always a reason why people do the things they do. It helps to consider the other person’s situation. What could have made them act this way? Have they always taken you for granted?
You can even suggest ways that their needs can still be met without taking advantage of you.
For example, ask your friends to call first if they need a place to sleep or contribute money if they frequently eat at your house.
Even once you’ve set a boundary, there is a chance that they will cross the line. Sometimes people simply forget because they’ve been doing it like this for a long time.
If 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 those boundaries
If they still don’t respect your boundaries after that, you may need to make more drastic changes. Unfortunately, it might be necessary to cut contact with certain “friends”.
3. How to speak so people listen to you: 12 quick tips
Many people who struggle with getting respect feel like they have no voice and nobody listens to them.
- Are people ignoring you, interrupting you, or talking over you?
- Are people not paying attention when you speak?
- Are your opinions overlooked or your feelings brushed aside?
Making yourself heard will help you develop more of a presence. That presence will earn you respect from the people close to you, both family, friends, and work colleagues.
- Use people’s name when you’re talking to them.
- Avoid overly complex language so that you are easily understood. (People will resent you if they can’t understand the words you use.)
- Talk about things that interest the other person. (A common mistake is to only talk about your own interests.)
- Ask more questions about the other person – this will keep their focus on you.
- Use hand gestures to make your message stronger and more clear.
- Keep more eye contact (make sure you give everyone in the group about equal eye contact to keep everyone’s interest.)
- Exercise your voice and articulation to get a strong voice that everyone hears. (Read more here about vocal projection.)
- Minimize complaining and negativity (make people feel good listening to you.)
- Avoid bragging. (People will see through it and think less of you for it.)
- Use effectful pauses. (Silence has a big impact on speech. Read more about it here.)
- Vary your tempo and tone when speaking. This makes you more interesting to listen to. (Practice at home by recording yourself speaking.)
- Ask people for feedback about how you can improve your speech.
4. Are you apologizing for your mere presence? DON’T!
Imagine someone accidentally spilling their drink on you. Then, out of pure habit, you say “I’m sorry” even if you did nothing wrong and are now covered in beer.
Over-apologizing is a sign that you’re more submissive than dominant. While “submissive” and “dominant” can both be bad things in extremes, it’s all about finding the right balance. You don’t want to be a pushover or a doormat, but you don’t want to be rude or arrogant either.
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 spills your beer on a stranger).
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 you shouldn’t apologize for just being around. Don’t get stuck “sorry-ing” your way through life.
5. Use your body language to command respect
Our body language can tell people how we feel about ourselves.
If you walk around with your shoulders hunched, arms crossed, and eyes on the ground, you will seem shy, afraid, or insecure. None of that commands respect.
However, if your body language portrays confidence, people will look up to you. They will believe that there must be a good reason for your confidence and therefore you must be worthy of their respect.
These are the characteristics of confident body language:
- Good eye contact when speaking and listening
- Good posture; no slouching or crossing your arms
- Walking with a purpose (not wandering around aimlessly)
- Keeping your chin up and eyes forward (instead of down)
- Use hand gestures when speaking (instead of keeping your hands shoved in your pockets)
Keep in mind that while confident people earn respect, arrogant people lose it.
6. How to stand up for your opinions and beliefs in a respectful way
When we compromise our beliefs to fit in, we disrespect ourselves.
I have a friend who has traditional Christian beliefs. It’s not very common where he lives in Sweden since most people are atheists over here. But everyone respects him.
Because he doesn’t push his beliefs onto anyone else and doesn’t judge anyone for not sharing his belief. But when someone asks him about it, he always stands firm in his belief, while still being respectful and nice about it.
That’s the sweet spot: Be comfortable both with your own beliefs and ALSO with others differing beliefs.
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.
7. If you get interrupted or cut off, make people listen by saying this
If your comment gets ignored or interrupted, you can say:
- “Just a second, I’d like to finish my thought.”
- “Excuse me, we got off tracked. What I was saying was that ___________.”
- “Like I was saying before, ___________.”
- “Please, let me speak.”
There are two more tactics I like when I want to say something but people keep talking over me:
- Using people’s motion-detecting to your advantage
You do this by raising your hand or your index finger briefly. This triggers people’s motion detecting and makes them focus on you. This opens up a perfect window for you to say something.
If you don’t get a window to say something immediately, that’s okay. People will often remember that you got something to say, so they will give you a chance to speak later on in the conversation.
- Using a quick inhale as a signal you got something to say
The same thing as the hand signal, by making a quick and audible inhale, people will notice you got something to say and focus on you.
When you start asserting yourself more, people will become more aware of your presence and give you more space in conversations.
Note that all interruptions aren’t made to belittle you.
For example, in a lively group conversation, people interrupt each other all the time. That’s okay and has nothing to do with being disrespectful.
You’ll just look like an asshole if you try to assert yourself EVERY time.
So, choose your fights wisely. (And don’t let others treat you like a doormat just because you’re a nice person.)
8. Are you losing your temper and getting angry too easily?
“I have a history of my emotions getting the better of me. I am working on it, but it has left such lasting damage that it feels like people are afraid of me. This makes me feel terrible now that I’ve grown up. I’ve realized the damage I made to my relationship by not having control over myself.”
If you’re prone to losing your temper or overreacting in certain situations, it’s probably affecting the respect people have for you.
If you lose your temper, people won’t take you seriously because you seem so emotional and not logical. And some might even start avoiding you instead of talking with you.
Here’s how to address a conflict in a way that makes people respect you more:
- Prepare some suggestions for improving the situation before you have a talk
- Have the conversation in private instead of making a scene in public
- Do it after you’ve cooled down instead of confronting someone in the heat of the moment
- Use “I feel” and “I think” instead of making accusations 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 works for both of you
- Be honest with yourself about mistakes you’ve made and things you could do differently moving forward
- Admit when you’re wrong and apologize
Learning to keep your calm and to handle situations constructively will make people respect you. When you don’t get mad every time, you will see how people start trusting you and talking more with you.
9. How you can improve your leadership skills to earn respect at work and in life
Leadership makes people listen to you and it also helps you accomplish things at work and in life. Leadership is one of the most valued attributes from employers around the world. It will earn you respect at work.
Being a leader means being a person who helps the group achieve their goals (goals can be both productive or just to have fun together).
Being a leader also means standing up for what you believe is right (even if it goes against what others want or believe).
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 plans for achieving them. (Find goal-setting worksheetshere.)
- Make sure people hear you by speaking clearly and loudly.
- Keep your word – do what you say you’re going to do.
- Lead by example – work hard if you want others to do the same.
- Do what you believe is right even if it’s different than what everyone else is doing.
- Treat others with respect at all times.
- Don’t lose your temper or blame others – focus on solving instead of blaming.
10. Self-presentation: The easiest way to double the respect you get?
The way you present yourself determines how people will see you and how much they will respect you.
- Dressing appropriately based on the situation
- Well-fitting and nice clothes
- Grooming (Showering, shaving, skin-care)
- Staying in shape
Things like clothes and looks might seem shallow, but people judge you a lot based on that. All those things represent both how you feel about yourself and how you want others to look at you.
How you present yourself is ESPECIALLY important to make a great first impression.
The cool thing about it is that most of these steps are super easy and effective ways to get more respect. All it takes is going to your hairdresser, taking a shower, shaving, or buying some new clothes.
It’s just a few hours work each month (and some of your hard-earned money) to enjoy more respect for the rest of your life.
Staying in shape is a bit more tricky and time-consuming, but there are also far more benefits to it. You can read more about staying in shape all year long over here.
11. How you can give respect to get 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 quickest way to shatter your reputation and lose respect is by speaking or behaving disrespectfully to someone else.
Is it okay to get mad or upset or offended?
Yes! You’re human, and nobody can expect you to be perfect. (My motto: Perfect is boring.)
But showing respect to people will go a long way towards earning respect from others (even when they don’t deserve it).
Here’s why it works: When you behave respectfully you’re proving that you’re the bigger person.
Your show of respect will show:
- Your self-control
- Your level-headedness
- Your ability to think on your feet
- Your ability to see beyond others weaknesses
- Your self-worth (you value yourself enough not to sink to others level)
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. It says a lot when you refuse to treat someone poorly even when you could have.
You’ve probably heard the “Golden Rule”:
Treat others how 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. They may be going through something that you don’t know about. Choose to treat them with respect anyway.
12. The surprising effect of owning up to your mistakes
To see why it’s so important to have the ability to admit when you’re wrong, do this:
Think about a person in your life who always refuses to admit when they’ve made a mistake.
How do you feel about that person’s behavior?
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 being prideful is believing you’re better than others.
Pride is an unattractive quality that ruins reputations and relationships.
Admitting when you’re wrong is always humbling. No one enjoys making mistakes. But the reality is that we all make mistakes, and each one of us is going to be wrong at some point.
Here are some things you can say when you realize you’re in the wrong:
- “I’ve thought about what you said, and you’re right.”
- “I know I disagreed with you before, but what you said makes a lot of sense. You’re right.”
- “I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I was wrong about that.”
Not only does admitting a mistake prevent you from looking foolish, it also shows the other person that you value them and their opinions. This will strengthen your relationship. But refusing to admit that you’re wrong will push you away from each other.
When I admit a mistake, I can almost FEEL how my relationship instantly improves. And I always learn something valuable from each time I’m wrong or mess up.
When you’re strong enough to admit your mistakes, you never have to be afraid to be wrong or mess up.
13. Be taken more seriously by avoiding self-deprecating humor
When you talk about yourself to others, what messages are you sending?
Here are some examples of what type of messages self-deprecating humor can send:
- “I’m no good”
- “I’m terrible at everything”
- “I don’t like myself”
- “You’re better than me”
- “I’m not worth your time”
I realized that I talked down on myself by joking too much about myself. I communicated that I wasn’t good enough.
Self-deprecating 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.
14. Say this instead of “I’m sorry” to change how people perceive you
A big problem with saying “I’m sorry” is that it gives the impression that you’re in the wrong, even if you aren’t.
One way to stop saying “I’m sorry” too often is by replacing the phrase with a simple “Thank you” when it’s possible. For example, if you’re asking someone for something.
When you say “Thank you” instead of “I’m sorry,” you’re changing how the other person perceives you.
“Thank you” shows appreciation to the other person for their time. It 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.
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 polite way to let them know without having to apologize for your presence.
15. Are you losing respect because you talk too much and reveal too much about yourself?
It’s common to talk too much and start rambling when you get nervous or want to make a good impression.
To gain others respect you can’t just ramble and talk about yourself. You need to slow down and find some common ground first. That way people will start valuing your input and what you say.
Here are 6 tips if you tend to talk too much or ramble about yourself:
- Think about what you want to say before you start speaking. That way your thoughts don’t tumble out of your mouth in a complicated (and embarrassing) mess.
- Avoid using “uh” and “um” when you speak. Fillers like that that weaken your message and put you in a bad light.
- Start asking more questions and follow-up questions. This will slow down your pace and make sure you don’t babble without any input from the other person.
- Avoid telling your whole life-story to others if they don’t do the same.
- Share equally much about yourself as they share about themselves.
- Focus on finding mutual interests and talk about those. This makes sure the conversation is interesting for everyone involved.
Remember, it’s all about taking one small step at a time. Take it at your own pace. Once you’ve mastered one respect tactic, choose another one to work on.
What’s your biggest problem with respect today? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help you out.