“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me…All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

These are prodigious words uttered by one of our civil rights forefathers, the first African American professional baseball player, Jackie Robinson. I simply marvel at his insightful, level-playing field thought that one can have their personal opinion of someone, but at the end of the day we are all diverse humans on this one Earth, and we are all in this together. Understanding diversity is to adhere to the practice of blanket respect.

In recent weeks, surprisingly, I have come across the phrase “respect is earned, not given” a multitude of times. I counted the phrase, or variances of, more than 25 times in the course of 5 days, one of which was found in a quote from a very distinguished diversity publication. I kept finding it peculiar that a sentiment as old as time would continuously stick out to me like a sore thumb. I soon came to realize that the concept itself of “earning respect” left me feeling uncomfortable, automatically judged, and indefensibly unequal.

To suggest that respect should be procured first, automatically instils a sense of “I am bigger, better, and stronger than you.” which, perhaps in the military or certain working situations that require “troops” to silently fall into their ranks, I get and don’t question. I also understand that there are some people who thrive better in those situations as it encourages a sense of adrenaline-type motivation.

But what about everyone else?

In our everyday lives, this view and operating principle is certainly not the most effective and healthiest way of approaching and interacting with each other. As an employer or leader in any industry, it’s common sense that one should want to create and surround themselves with a team that meets high standards, a criteria of skill and dedication. If we attract such talent, but then have them operate in an environment full of fear and guilt, it can do nothing but create a toxic workplace. While at work, employees should be focused on doing the best they can do each and every minute, as well as be consistently affirmed that their participation in the journey is cared for and appreciated. I guarantee: if you offer, from the get-go, the proper tools, knowledge, support and degree of respect, you quickly discover who on your team is appropriately and inappropriately equipped to stand for those qualities you represent, both internally as an organization and outwardly to your clients.

The more respect offered, the more respectful a person becomes. It’s just human nature. Innovation is often created when there is a strong sense of respect and appreciation encouraged among a creative team. If we as business leaders can start to encourage that respectful environment from day one and are mindful of the power it can create, I firmly believe that its impact each and every day will sustain our organizations.

I will always stand by respect starting from a full tank and never zero. Then any additional respect you gain along the way becomes your surplus and your own personal extraordinary wisdom.

Life is full of so many things that we cannot control; however the degree of respect we offer people we meet and interact with is not one of them. This element we have complete control of and need to offer on a never-ending basis.

We all have heard of the “Golden Rule.” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But with respect, we need to practice the “Platinum Rule”. Do unto others as they would like you to do unto them. In other words, treat people the way they want to be treated! We must always practice respect at every turn. With that acting principle guiding us, the world will definitely become a better and more inclusive place to be.

“What is the quality of your intent? Certain people have a way of saying things that shake us at the core. Even when the words do not seem harsh or offensive, the impact is shattering. What we could be experiencing is the intent behind the words. When we intend to do good, we do. When we intend to do harm, it happens. What each of us must come to realize is that our intent always comes through. We cannot sugar-coat the feelings in our heart of hearts. The emotion is the energy that motivates. We cannot ignore what we really want to create. We should be honest and do it the way we feel it. What we owe to ourselves and everyone around is to examine the reasons of our true intent. My intent will be evident in the results.”

~Thurgood Marshall

about the author - Elaine

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