Showing Respect: How, When, Where and Why

We’re all different, yet all the same.

I have two children and I’ve always told them, as most moms tell their kids, to show respect to others. While we all know we should respect others for their differences, I’m sorry, but I don’t think everyone really knows what that means, what it looks like, sounds like, or feels like.

Just watch the news one night and you’ll see many of our leaders and celebrities calling other people names, being a bully, or doing something they wouldn’t want their own children to do. Social media is also a hot bed of disrespect. Seems like some people think it’s okay to be rude and disrespectful as long as it’s not done in person.

So, are we adult hypocrites because we tell our kids to do one thing while doing another? Are we just selective on who we show respect to? Or, do we really not know what it means to show respect to everyone, everywhere, all of the time?

WHY Show Respect

If you want a civil and respectful country, society, office, neighborhood, and family, then it starts with you. We also want to make sure we are being positive role models to our children, and that we do what is right, and not just what is easy.

Below are some tips and reminders about showing respect to read and to share with others.

photo via @mattshdr

WHO to Show Respect

Show respect to everyone regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, political party, age, or socioeconomic status. For example, even if you don’t agree with someone’s political or religious affiliation, or the gender of the person they love, you do not have the right to say, do, or post anything that is anything less than respectful. Like my grandma used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

WHEN, WHERE and HOW to Show Respect

  • In person. Put your cell phone away when you’re talking with someone in person and show the person respect by just concentrating on them. Also, give them direct eye contact while they are speaking and actively listen. Ask others questions about themselves and do not only talk about yourself.
  • Over a Meal. Show respect to the people you’re eating with by waiting for everyone to sit down and have their food (everyone must have their food at your table) before you begin eating. Also, wait for the host to begin eating first. making an effort to have nice table manners also shows respect to the people you’re eating with.
  • When Using Your Cell. Again, put your cell phone away over a meal and in meetings. Do not talk loudly on your cell or have someone on speaker while around others in the office, the airport, grocery store, or other public places. When with people be present and not tied to your cell phone to show them the respect they deserve.
  • On Social Media. Do not write or post anything demeaning or disrespectful to anyone for any reason. Also, try to “lift people up” by writing nice and supportive things.
  • In Meetings. Put your cell phone and laptop away when someone is talking to show them respect. If you want to take notes on your electronics, tell the other people what you are doing so they don’t think you’re just writing your shopping list. Also, don’t shoot down other peoples’ ideas. Listen and try to understand their point of view as you would like them to do for you. Give others recognition for their help and share successes.
  • In the office. Be inclusive and do not form little groups like in high school. You all are on the same team and the more you connect with people the more effective you will personally be and the more successful the company will be. Smile when you pass someone in the hall. If you’re within 5 feet of someone say, “Hello” and make small talk as a way to get to know them. Do not make a mess in the shared kitchen and don’t take others’ stuff. Gossiping and oversharing is never a good idea especially at work.
  • In Your Community. “Build bridges not fences.” Reach out to those in need in your community to see how you can help. If there is someone who could use some help in your neighborhood do it without asking or expecting anything in return. For example, take out your neighbor’s garbage cans out if you know they are busy, or bring over a meal or soup if you know they are sick.

As Aretha Franklin used to say…, “R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Find out what it means to me.”


Aimee Symington
Aimee is the CEO of Finesse Worldwide, and an etiquette expert with almost 20 year's experience teaching etiquette to adults and children throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Aimee has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, and she regularly shares her etiquette advice on Charlotte Today, Fox News, and WBTV, on radio programs such as NPR, and in newspapers and national magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman's Health. Ms. Symington is also the creator of the award-winning, nationally acclaimed products on manners for children called “Blunders®” and “Manner Mats®” For more etiquette tips for adults and children, please visit her website at Connect on Facebook.