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What if You Just Don't Respect Someone?

Q: I know you have said that it is important that we have respect in order to hold a REAL conversation, even if it is to simply reverence the uniqueness of each individual. However, I work for a manager that I could never respect. I don’t respect her personally because I know a lot about her personal life, and I don’t respect her as my manager because of how she treats others and me. She’s also a very poor leader; in fact, a number of people in our department agree with my perspective. So how can I develop respect for someone like this?

A: This is a great question because all of us at some time or another will deal with an individual for whom we have little or no respect. Unfortunately, when we don’t respect a person, we go out of our way to avoid that person. Or if we are in a work relationship, we may still avoid them, suffer the frustration of having to deal with them, or quit and stay in the job and continue to make ourselves and everyone around us miserable.

Eventually, you will have to decide what you will do to improve your situation if you want to maintain your sanity and improve your relationship. Remember it is important to improve respect because of the impact that respect has on both the relationship and results.

There are a number of tactics you can employ that will improve your current situation.

Look for the Positive

A number of years ago when I practiced law as a criminal defense attorney, I always had a difficult time dealing with one particularly obnoxious prosecutor. To put it mildly, the guy was a “grandstander.” In short, he was the kind of person who did everything to make himself look better than everyone else. That’s right—he was a real showboat!

One day, another attorney pulled me aside and stated, “I’ve noticed that every time you have to deal with Ed, you let him get under your skin. I recommend that you find something you really like about him, even if it is the color or choice of his tie!”

“Why?” I queried.

“I believe that, on some level, people pick up on what we think and feel about them. So if you’ll just hold a positive thought in your mind while speaking with him, I believe your interactions will be much smoother,” he offered.

At first, I thought my friend had attended one too many “power of positive thinking” seminars. But I decided to follow his suggestion and was shocked at the results. Although the prosecutor didn’t give up being a “showboat,” he became more calm and rational in his demeanor and dealings with me, particularly in a courtroom in front of a jury.

You think you can hide or mask what you say to a person, but you really can’t. Negative thinking leads to negative feelings. Negative feelings lead to negative words and actions. All that you think about your manager comes out in your expression toward her. On some level, she picks up on your immense dislike for her. And, it is totally possible that the disrespect she displays to you is a reflection of the disrespect you portray to her. Every one of us dislikes something about the people in our lives. Find something positive or admirable about your manager and focus on the positive.

NEXT: Manage Your Emotional Energy