By: John Rampton
While we often think that money and material goods will bring happiness, some research suggests that being respected and admired can actually be even more important for boosting happiness.
And not only does respect seem to lead to increased happiness, it can help build stronger relationships with those around you.
In her book “Respect: An Exploration,” researcher Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot calls respect the “single most powerful ingredient in nourishing relationships and creating a just society.”
But how do you go about earning this respect? We know all the obvious habits of respected people — being ethical, highly skilled, disciplined, etc. — but what are some unexpected habits and practices we can emulate in order to earn respect?
This post will cover five things respected people do daily in order to earn the trust and admiration of those around them.
1. They Read
Warren Buffett is undeniably one of the best-known and most respected investors and philanthropists of our time. A Google search reveals countless articles on Buffett’s habits and traits we can emulate in the hopes of achieving some modicum of success.
But perhaps the most surprising of Buffett’s habits is his dedication to reading. He reportedly reads for approximately 80% of his day.
Harry S. Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” There are many examples of respected leaders who have been voracious readers, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
But why is this? We do know that reading helps develop a variety of skills and traits that ultimately help build respect. These include:
– Increased Verbal Intelligence
– Improved Understanding of Social Cues
– Improved Emotional Intelligence
Many of the most respected leaders of our time are avid readers. Incorporate reading into your daily routine as a way to develop important social and leadership skills that will lead others to respect you.
2. They Exhibit Warmth, Not Just Competence
Many people assume that if they’re smart enough, skilled enough, or competent enough at their job, they’ll naturally earn the respect of those around them.
However, according to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, competence is only the second most important trait for earning respect. Surprisingly, the first is warmth.
According to Cuddy, when we meet a new person, we ask ourselves two questions: “Can we trust this person?” and “Can we respect them?” Trust comes from being warm, while respect comes from being competent.
But here’s the catch: According to her research, trust needs to happen before respect. This means a person needs to find you warm before they can ever respect you. She writes, “From an evolutionary perspective, it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.”
If you want to earn respect, you first need to be perceived as warm by those around you. To project warmth, it’s key to put yourself in the shoes of those around you. Really listening to those who are talking to you, and showing empathy where appropriate, will help those around you feel like you really care.
3. They Know How to Say No
We know that people tend to respect those who are assertive. When someone is assertive, it conveys a sense of competence and power — both traits that are very attractive and help to foster a sense of trust.
Being assertive can take many forms; however, simply saying no can be a great first step.
The problem is that many of us worry we’ll come across as overly negative or assertive. We think that if we say no too many times, we’ll be seen as aggressive or difficult.
But here’s the good news: If you think you’re overly assertive, there’s a very good chance you’re not.
Research suggests that people who see themselves as appropriately assertive are actually more likely to be overly assertive, while those who see themselves as overly or underly assertive are actually displaying the appropriate degree of assertiveness.
In other words, if you’re worried you’re being too assertive, you’re probably OK.
Being able to speak your mind and stand your ground is important for earning respect from those around you. If you believe you’re being too assertive, you’re probably not. Of course, if you’re frequently told you come across as cocky or “full of yourself,” it may be time to dial down the assertiveness a bit.
4. They Verbalize Their Respect for Others
Everyone knows that in order to be respected, you first need to be respectful. While there are obviously exceptions to this rule, this is a pretty basic tenet of earning the respect of those around you.
But what I’m talking about here goes beyond simply being respectful. It deals with telling people you respect them.
According to the principle of spontaneous trait transference, others automatically attribute the same traits to us that we describe in them. This means that if we tell someone they’re worthy of respect (if it’s true, of course), they’re more likely to feel we’re also worthy of respect.
Takeaway: Be generous with your praise. If you respect someone, let them know — it could be the key to earning their respect as well.
5. They Laugh at Themselves
There are countless studies on how laughter has a positive impact on our health and well-being. We also know that humor can be a great way to improve relationships and defuse stressful situations.
However, when we’re talking about earning and maintaining respect (particularly in the workplace), things start to get a bit murky. And this is even more salient when we’re talking about the employer/employee relationship. As a boss, you want to be seen as having a good sense of humor, but you also need to be taken seriously.
Research published in the Academy of Management Perspectives indicates there are two ways humor works to enhance leadership: through securing power and reducing social distance.
Unfortunately, the first method isn’t all that healthy. To secure power, some bosses will use humor as a way to put down employees while building themselves up. And while this has been shown to bolster status within an organization, it’s likely not a strategy most of us want to adopt.
Using humor to reduce social distance is likely a preferable strategy. Engage in good-natured joking as a way to help you appear more human, more approachable, and more supportive.
Moderate self-deprecating humor can help increase likability and respect. However, be sure you don’t go overboard. If you frequently joke at your own expense, you could actually be losing the respect of those around you.
Everyone wants to be respected, but that respect needs to be earned. The five strategies above will go a long way toward improving your relationships and helping you legitimately earn that respect.