The Basics of Respect

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,

Thou art not so unkind

As man’s ingratitude….” — William Shakespeare


“Teach your children well

Their father’s hell did slowly go by

And feed them on your dreams 

The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by….” — Graham Nash


There’s a viral video where a sentry at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington abruptly silences a group of idiots carrying on during the ceremonial changing of the guard. It reminded me of an incident I experienced at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii several years ago. Tourists there were similarly laughing, cameras clicking, playing with their kids as if on a picnic, oblivious to the watery graves below them. Or was it disrespectful? Nearby, an old returning Pearl Harbor survivor cried softly, and then saluted the plaque with the names of 2,402 other heroes that died that day. I’m not sure whether his tears were for fallen comrades, or for the rest of us.

“Respect,” says Wikipedia, denotes both a positive feeling of esteem for a person or entity, as well as specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem. Rude conduct usually indicates a lack of respect, disrespect, whereas actions that honor somebody or something indicate respect. Respect for tradition and legitimate authority is one of five fundamental moral values shared by different societies and individuals. Respect should not be confused with tolerance, since tolerance doesn’t necessarily imply any positive feeling. The antonym of respect is contempt!

There’s lots of talk these days about returning to “the basics” of our business.  When I hear this, I instinctively think of classic selling skills learned at GRI and early sales training classes – farming, FSBO’s, qualifying buyers, sending handwritten “thank you” notes. But I’d like to think too about basic virtues and behaviors we’ve forgotten or allowed to diminish in today’s overly casual, often disrespectful society – common courtesies like returning phone calls, opening doors for women and older people, watching our salty language, and sloppy, informal, inappropriate dress… treating everyone with courtesy and respect, even those we may not like or vehemently disagree with. When we treat customers and service providers like another “number,” a faceless commodity, a “value meal” ticket, we diminish ourselves as well. Our level of customer service should not be contingent on the probability or improbability of a quick commission. The sooner we all get back to ALL of the basics, the more successful and satisfying our lives and businesses will become.

“Ignoring a child’s disrespect is the surest guarantee that it will continue.”  ~Fred G. Gosman

“I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform.” ~Ryne Sandberg

Written by Marty Rueter