Here’s How Emotionally Intelligent People Earn Respect

To earn respect, you've got to give respect. Here are five steps that will help you do both.

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Tiago Felipe Ferreira via Unsplash
Tiago Felipe Ferreira via Unsplash

It seems that as a society the ability to show respect is becoming a lost art. 

Sarcasm and cutting remarks have become the default reaction, at work, at home, and online. A fractured political and racial climate fuels fear and suspicion. Further, when we get caught up in emotion it’s easy to forget the principles of common courtesy. 

In the real world, not everyone will automatically give you the respect you deserve as a human being. But there’s a simple principle that will almost always help you to earn that respect: 

To earn respect, you’ve got to give respect.

In my new book, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence,I outlined five steps that will help you to earn the respect of others.

1. Acknowledge them. 

Even before you say a word to someone, you can show respect by acknowledging the person’s presence. A slight nod of the head, a smile, or a simple hello can go a long way in making a first impression. 

When discussing a topic on which you disagree, learn to acknowledge your partner’s points. Thank them for being open and sharing their perspective. If you don’t follow their reasoning, ask follow-up questions. To clarify, try rephrasing their points in your own words, and ask if you’ve got it right. All of these practices help others feel heard. 

2. Get the full story. 

Be careful about jumping to conclusions based on events or situations you didn’t witness firsthand. In such cases, there’s a big chance that details and context have been lost in the mix. And even if you witnessed a situation firsthand, you did so through a lens of personal biases and leanings that affect your perception. 

Be careful to get the details of a situation before taking action. Ask others involved to describe how they remember things going down. Others will appreciate the time you take to get their side of the story, which promotes respectful discussion. 

3. Set the tone. 

If you approach people in a calm and reasonable manner, chances are much higher that they will respond in the same way. Acknowledge their difficulties and challenges and they’ll be much more willing to listen. In contrast, if you begin with biting sarcasm, or by yelling, you’ll send the other person’s amygdala into overdrive. 

If you’re trying to get a point across, aim to be kind and fair, not accusatory. The old saying is true: you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. At the very least, make honey the appetizer. 

4. Keep a balanced view of yourself. 

People quickly lose respect for those who appear arrogant or conceited. But the other extreme is also dangerous: if you lack conviction or confidence, you’ll appear weak and be labeled a pushover. 

Instead, strive to achieve a balanced view of yourself in relation to others. You have plenty of value to offer, but so do they. Maintaining this view isn’t always easy, especially when you encounter an opinion or belief system that differs sharply from your own. But it’s possible if you focus on identifying strengths–both your own and those of the people you’re dealing with. 

5. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Known as “the Golden Rule,” this principle has been around for thousands of years. But in today’s divisive world, it’s more important than ever.

Some claim the Golden Rule is broken. After all, individual values and tastes differ. Shouldn’t it be: “Treat others as they want to be treated”? 

But this reasoning misses the point; the beauty of this principle is in its practicality. The Golden Rule is easy to remember, while encouraging respect and connection. Further, to fulfill the Golden Rule in the ultimate sense requires taking others’ tastes, values, and perspectives into consideration. 

After all, isn’t that what you’d want them to do when dealing with you?

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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