Respect. It’s something everyone (and not just Aretha Franklin) craves. After all, it’s human nature to want to be viewed as intelligent and accomplished. But most of us don’t want to demand that high opinion in a way that’s aggressive and authoritative.
Admittedly, commanding respect from others—particularly older and more experienced industry leaders—is something I’ve struggled with. As a female business owner in my mid-20s, I’ve come across my fair share of esteemed professionals at networking events who have legitimately referred to my work as “cute.”
Yes, it’s enough to make me want to roll my eyes and make a gagging sound. But, instead of getting bent out of shape about those uneducated opinions, I quickly realized something important: Eliciting respect from others is a responsibility that lies solely on my shoulders. As cheesy as it sounds, you truly teach people how to treat you. So it’s up to you to ensure that others take your reputation and your work seriously.
I’ll be the first to confess that it’s not always easy. But it’s still definitely doable. Here are four simple habits I’ve put into play that have helped me command more respect.
1. Be Worthy of Respect
I know this first point seems obvious. But it’s important to note. If you want to be respected, you first need to ensure that you’re actually worthy of it.
What does that mean? Don’t miss deadlines. Show up on time. Follow through on promises. Make sure all of your work is high quality. Present yourself in a way that’s professional and polished—including on your social-media accounts.
These seem basic. But if those simple elements don’t fall into place, you’ll have a hard time coaxing a high opinion out of anyone.
2. Cut Out the Qualifiers
“This is probably a stupid suggestion, but...” Sound familiar? We all have the tendency to preface our ideas and contributions with some sort of qualifying statement. It’s an effort to protect our egos, in case the idea actually ends up being lackluster.
However, people who command respect stay far away from these types of phrases. Instead, they put their ideas out there and then handle any feedback from there. Avoiding those lead-ins can be a tough habit to break. But it’s a surefire way to speak with more confidence and have your ideas taken seriously.
3. Stop Downplaying Your Success
Think of the last time someone complimented you on a job well done. How did you respond? If you’re anything like most people, I’m willing to bet it went a little something like “Oh well, it really wasn’t a big deal.”
I get it—accepting praise can be a little uncomfortable. However, how can you expect others to respect you if you don’t respect yourself?
Instead of brushing off your success as if it’s nothing worth noting, try replying with a simple statement like “Thanks so much. I worked really hard on that!” Receiving compliments with grace and poise seems like a minor detail, but it’s sure to give your professional reputation a boost.
4. Remember Body Language
Often, your nonverbal cues say even more than the words that are actually coming out of your mouth. You’ve heard that sentiment time and time again—and for good reason. It’s solid advice.
You can craft the most self-assured elevator pitch in the history of networking. But if you say the whole thing with your shoulders hunched and your eyes focused on the ground, it’s definitely not going to send the same impactful message.
So, pull your shoulders back and stand up straight. Be firm with your handshakes. Make eye contact. Ensure your gestures are made away from your body, rather than making nearly unnoticeable movements toward yourself. They’re all marks of a confident person—someone who deserves respect and admiration.
As a young female entrepreneur, I’ve found eliciting respect for my work has been a challenge from the start—and in all honesty, it was a roadblock I wasn’t completely prepared for.
However, I quickly learned that the ball was completely in my court when it came to being respected. It was up to me to take action and command the high opinion I knew I deserved. So I started putting the above habits into practice in order to be taken more seriously as a young professional.
Whether you’re 18 or 80, you can use these tips to be viewed as a confident and qualified person who’s worthy of respect. And no, the desire for that treatment doesn’t make you pushy or arrogant—it makes you human.
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