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“Yes, sir.” “No, ma’am.”

Respect. Remember the last time you heard a kid act respectfully? It’s sad to say, but you were kind of shocked, weren’t you? Impressed, but also shocked. We often hear someone say these days, “You have to earn my respect!”. It’s said like a challenge and certainly not in a friendly tone. Who wants to bend over backward for that person? Who is going to end up friends with someone beginning things that way? In my mind, respect should be freely given. Counterpoint: I’ve been told a number of times that I can be too harsh and unforgiving. That’s fine (and probably pretty accurate). However, I truly believe it’s best to begin something with a positive mindset and the best of intentions. If things don’t go that way, fine, I can adapt (enter the harshness part). But I do sincerely try to be kind, fair, and open at the beginning – it simply makes no sense to me not to begin that way. 

About five years ago, I hired a new employee. She was fairly young but very bright, professional, with excellent credentials, and carried herself exceptionally well. She was a fast learner and was doing beautifully in no time. None of those are what made her stand out to me, however. I say with great pride that everyone I work with has those qualities (though some of us aren’t exactly “fairly young”). At the time of her hiring, our office was small, so it was sometimes hard not to overhear other conversations. I often heard her saying “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am” and that stood out to me, and I started paying more attention. People in person and on the phone gravitated toward her because she offered respect freely. I noticed that her doing this made two things happen: people that were unfriendly became much more friendly, and people who were already friendly just adored her. It’s like she had a superpower. It dawned on me that her superpower of being polite and respectful is simply because those two qualities are so rare these days. Our insurance agency continues to grow, and I’ve made it a point to make those qualities a requirement for each new hire. Solid proof of the benefit of this principle is how well we all get along here in the office – another rarity in today’s work environment. I argue that being respectful to your work colleagues, family, and friends cannot but have a positive impact on your life. Having a culture that offers respect, in turn, gets respect. It’s not always easy, but there are very few things in life worth having that are. 

I say all of this because I suspect social media, specifically, and our culture in general, has damn near killed respect. Have you ever heard of the bucket of crabs story? In short, there is a bucket full of crabs. When one near the top has almost escaped, one of the other crabs pulls him back in. It’s a story highlighting the mentality of “If I can’t have it, neither can you!”. How does that relate to social media? It is largely applauded if someone posts some positive accomplishment in a small circle of family and friends. However, there is a weird phenomenon if you get a big enough audience, people will start attacking you for posting something positive. On the other hand, if you post how you’re a victim, everyone competes to applaud you. If you post something about overcoming being a victim, then again, a large enough audience will attack you. It’s like social media has reversed what made America, America. For 245 years, we’d watch someone succeed, and instead of feeling envy, we would think, “That will be me one day!” Success stories powered us and made us want to do better. Nowadays, we’re celebrating victimhood and racing to the bottom. What happened? I argue that we’ve largely lost our self-respect and our respect for one another.

Respect. If you have kids or grandkids these days, I cannot stress enough the importance of having them show respect. Our current culture wants them not to. Our current culture, it seems, does not want them to have the tools to succeed. Our current culture thinks it’s okay for kids to be rude to their teachers and their elders. This is setting them up to fail right out of the gate. Think about it, my one employee continuously surprised people by showing them respect. If that was such a common practice, why would they be surprised? Are you seeing my point? We’re being told one thing, yet what our eyes(and ears) experience in real life doesn’t reflect what we’re told. So, I say take command of the things that you can control. Being more respectful to one another is an easy place to start. Being a good example in your workplace is another. Teaching kids to be respectful is a bigger challenge, but I say it is 100% worth the effort. For the first time in a long time, America seems to be going backward. It is up to us, individually, to do our part to reverse that trend. Showing and giving respect is a very simple and effective way to do that. As the saying goes, the simplest solution is often the best solution. So, let’s get out there and start respecting the hell out of each other! 😊

Goodlad & Swank

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