First of all, you already know that to gain respect, you have to give respect. Funny how the very things that you know are the very things that you may forget to embed in your everyday life. I am guilty of this myself. Like I said, we are a fast paced society. It is easy to get drowned in the crowd. Still this is no excuse for anyone including myself.
So how do you give respect? Start off by treating others they way you would like to be treated. Always let the other person speak first. Your role is to listen and observe before you speak. Everyone likes to tell their story. By listening before you speak, not only will you make the person feel important, you will also put yourself at an advantage. To have an advantage means you will less likely say things that you may regret and embarrass yourself later on. Remember that once the words come out of your mouth, there is no way you can take it back.
Everyone likes talking about themselves. I know a lot of people who talk like a one way train. They go on and on about themselves thinking the other party is ever so interested to hear all their stories. I’m not saying you cannot share but there is a way to go about doing it. You should always ask about the other person first before starting your story. For example, you want to talk about your child and which school you intend to send him/her to. Instead of going “I am sending my child to a value-added school. I know of a few good schools in the area but I’m not too sure which one to pick yet. It’s great that your children are all grown-up. My motherhood days are only beginning. Choosing a good school is not as easy as I thought it would be...blah blah…” If you have been shooting off all the thoughts in your head without thinking, STOP. You can start off by asking “I am thinking of sending my child to a value-added school. Do you know of any good schools in this area?” By asking the other person a question, you are including them in your topic of conversation. Most people I know are more than happy to share their opinion. When they do share, be genuine and listen with your ears, body and eyes. Do not look the other person straight in the eye and then let your mind wander off. Do not nod your head in acknowledgement and then tap your fingers on the table and yawn. People can tell if you’re really interested or just acting like you’re interested. Smile as you listen. Raise your eyebrows in awe. Let them know you’re truly listening. Bear in mind that what you do not say are the things that can be heard the loudest.
To interrupt is the worst offense. If I had it my way, I would make it punishable by law. You should always let the other person finish their sentence. Do not get so enthusiastic that you have to cut a sentence mid-way. Your opinion will be much more appreciated when it is your turn to speak. Try not to contradict every opinion someone gives you. We are all entitled to our own views. At times, when you don’t agree with something, express your opinion in a polite way. If they still insist they are right, just smile and rest the case.
When you talk, always be conscious of the tone of your voice. You don’t want to seem like you’re shouting to someone when you’re really only talking. If you’re soft-spoken, try to speak slightly louder and make sure your words are clear and concise. As a rule of thumb, watch the reaction of the other person. If they lean their ear forward to hear you better or start shifting his eyes around the room or even take one step back, it could be that you’re talking a little too soft or too loud. With these things in mind, remember that sometimes it is not about the things you say but how you say it.
Do not shun off a person just because they have little knowledge or serve no benefit to you. You can always learn from someone regardless of their age or experience. Someone who has failed in many areas of their life is also someone you can learn from. How? By taking their experience and turning them into a positive lesson for you. You can learn of how and where they’ve gone wrong so that you will never repeat the mistakes they made. Never think you are better than anyone else no matter how knowledgeable you are. Everyone has something to give.
Your gestures and body language are also very important. I know of someone who gets so engrossed talking about her son that she almost re-enacts the scenario at home. She would say things like “I told my son…boy, you better not make mummy angry”. As she says these things, she would point her index finger at me with an angry look. The stories she would tell me usually last throughout a whole 40 minutes train journey. So you can imagine how conscious I was of the people around who stared thinking I was being punished for doing something wrong. When the people around us see this, they would get the impression that I was being scolded. What she does not realize is that to point a finger is rude. To re-enact a scenario also makes the other person feel uncomfortable. There are certain acceptable gestures but it would take a whole chapter for me to write about. If unsure, limit your hand gestures and focus on the conversation.
Another important thing is also your posture. You should always stand up straight with shoulders pulled back. Slouching gives the impression that you have low-self-esteem and do not respect yourself. The way you stand, walk and carry yourself off tells the other person without words, how much respect you give to yourself. When they see that you respect yourself, they will respect you in return.