Treating others with respect is important in all aspects of life, from your relationships with friends and family to how you conduct yourself at work. Whether you realize it or not, how you act toward others influences how they feel about themselves and can even impact their behavior as well as yours.
The bottom line? Treating people with respect will make your life more fulfilling, happier, and easier overall, so learning how to show respect to others is an excellent life skill to develop and maintain.
Below are 22 important ways to show respect to others that you can implement immediately.
1) Listen with intent
When we’re talking, we want people to listen. When others are talking, we should be actively listening. Think about it—if they can’t hear you, you can’t communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively.
2) Speak in a calm tone
While it might seem like a small detail, your tone of voice can have a huge impact on how you are perceived.
Keep in mind that if you’re angry or frustrated, other people won’t be able to get your message, no matter how valuable it is.
Before you speak with someone, take a deep breath and count to ten. If that doesn’t calm you down, try jotting down some notes about what you want to say before starting a conversation.
3) Give Honest Feedback
If you have a job, you’re in a position of power. Be respectful and mindful of that power when giving feedback to other people on your team, especially if they’re under you.
Being overly harsh or sarcastic can lead others to feel like they can’t trust your words and will be less likely to want your guidance. Even positive feedback should be genuine.
4) Read Between the Lines
Read between the lines and always know what you are being told. Often, people will give subtle hints that they aren’t comfortable with a certain situation.
While you may be friends with a person, if they aren’t showing respect to you, then it is a sign of disrespect. The key is recognizing disrespectful behavior and correcting it so that both parties feel respected.
5) Treat Everyone Equally
You can earn respect by how you treat everyone. Just because someone is older or has a different job title doesn’t mean they deserve less respect than someone else.
It also means you don’t have to agree with everything people say. You can disagree respectfully and still show respect for another person by listening and letting them finish what they want to say before replying or giving them your opinion.
6) Know when to fold your cards
In some cultures, it’s considered a sign of disrespect to turn your back on someone. And in many places, you never want to give anyone a cold shoulder.
Do you know if you’re about to step into a situation where showing respect means standing still? If not, it might be worth asking someone from that culture before making any moves.
7) Don’t make assumptions
In any respect, it’s important not to make assumptions. If you do, you might find yourself in a difficult or even dangerous position.
For example, if you’re in a meeting and someone from another department doesn’t know the answer to a question, don’t assume the worst. It’s possible they just weren’t briefed on the topic beforehand and need more information.
8) Offer a sincere apology
When you make a mistake, admit it and apologize. This shows respect for the other person and respect for yourself. Often, people are more willing to forgive someone who has taken responsibility for their actions.
9) Take the time to understand someone’s perspective
In any case, it is essential to try and see things from other people’s perspectives. This can be challenging, especially if you don’t agree with them, but it’s important to respect their thoughts and feelings.
Oftentimes, people just want to be heard and understood, even if you don’t see eye to eye.
10) Respect other people’s time
Time is a precious commodity, and respect is something that should be given freely. That being said, respect other people’s time by being punctual and adhering to deadlines.
If you’re expecting someone else to respect your time, it’s only fair that you do the same for them.
11) Don’t gossip
Gossiping about others is a sign of disrespect. Not only does it show that you don’t respect the person you’re speaking about, but it also says a lot about your character.
If you can’t say something nice about someone, it’s best to say nothing at all.
12) Avoid using profanity
In general, avoid using profanity around others. This shows a lack of respect for the person you’re speaking to and can be seen as offensive.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, such as if you’re close friends with someone and know they don’t mind. But in most cases, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
13) Say thank you without hesitation
One of life’s simplest forms of respect is thanking people for things. People generally want you to be grateful for what they do and how they treat you, so keep a list of nice things people do for you.
Whenever somebody does something nice, write down their name, what they did and when it happened. After a week or two, pull out your notebook and handwrite each person a thank-you note telling them how much their gesture meant to you.
14) Be respectful of the feelings of others
If you’re having a bad day, try not to take it out on other people. Being respectful of others is always a good idea.
Sometimes, though, when we’re caught up in our own problems and frustrations we may forget that everyone has their own set of issues they are dealing with.
The last thing anyone needs is for someone else to make them feel worse about their situation. It’s important to keep your emotions in check because it is an essential component of showing respect for others.
15) Invest in what matters
This is your time, your energy, and your focus. Don’t waste it on anything less than what matters most.
Your family, friends, and health should always be first—regardless of what you do for a living. When you prioritize these things above all else, you will show respect for yourself and others.
16) Suspend judgment
People are always projecting their own issues onto others. Instead of assuming someone is a jerk, you’re better off thinking, “I wonder what kind of stress he or she must be dealing with right now?”
Human beings are complex; trying to understand them and where they’re coming from will make you a more empathetic human being—and earn you respect in return. People don’t like feeling judged.
17) Be authentic
Being a respectful person means you do what you say and say what you mean. Being authentic also means that your message comes across with sincerity and genuineness.
It’s important to show respect by respecting your words, body language, emotions, time, and space. Showing respect goes a long way in every aspect of life: at home, at work, or just out on an errand running.
18) Express appreciation
It’s okay to tell someone you appreciate them—especially if they’ve gone out of their way for you.
Whether it’s a coworker who stayed late to complete a project or your spouse who just made dinner without being asked, showing appreciation is a simple and powerful way to show respect.
19) Don’t interrupt others when they are speaking
Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to just lend an ear. This shows that you respect them and their opinions enough to want to hear what they have to say.
Avoid interruptions, offer advice only when asked, and make sure your body language conveys that you’re interested in what the other person is saying.
20) Follow through on your commitments
If you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do it. This goes back to being authentic and sincere—two very important qualities of a respect-worthy person.
When you make a commitment, no matter how big or small, you’re showing respect for yourself and others. When you follow through, you’re teaching people to respect you, too.
21) Respect other cultures and customs
In a world that’s becoming increasingly connected, it’s more important than ever to respect the cultures and customs of others.
This may mean being open-minded, learning about different ways of life, and being willing to accept that there is more than one way to do things.
When you respect other cultures, you show respect for the people who belong to them.
22) Give people the benefit of the doubt
If someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, try to give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible that they didn’t mean to hurt or offend you—and even if they did, getting angry won’t solve anything.
In any case, it’s always better to err on the side of respect. Assume that people have good intentions, and you’ll be a respect-worthy person.
Taking a few minutes each day to show someone respect can change their whole day. Most people will not remember everything you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel. The trick is learning how to make others feel respected.