There is an old cliché, “Respect is a two way street.” Like many old clichés, this one has some truth to it. Although there are some people for whom no amount of respect and kindness will matter, I have found most people respond somewhat in kind to the way they are treated. Everyone has a job to do, whether it is a high level job, a job few people want to perform, or an uncompensated job at home. When interacting with people, I try to place myself in their position and see things from their point of view, not my own. I exchange pleasantries with the people at the grocery store (and hugs from quite a few!), restroom attendants, as well as most people in most settings. Many people are surprised to find out I know the name of my dentist’s receptionist, letter carrier, food delivery driver, and other people in similar jobs that most of us take for granted. It doesn’t take any more time to be kind than to be rude. Whether you are the boss who is trying to motivate employees or the employee who may one day need the boss to write a letter of recommendation, it is never a bad thing to treat others with respect.
We have pointed out that mutual respect can have its own direct rewards, even financial. But, one should not be respectful just to get those rewards; that is, one cannot be fake nice and manipulative in this regard. The rewards come instead from having been respectful and having unexpected things happen as a result. To benefit from the rewards of respect, the respect has to start immediately in any encounter. It could be with a check out clerk, a customer service representative, or even law enforcement. And, while the potential is unfortunately higher than it should be that the other person may come into the situation with an “attitude” responding disrespectfully or mirroring the attitude will guarantee a clash. Even when frustrated (for example, after being routed to 3 departments at the cable company), taking a calm approach and “killing them with kindness” is more likely to lead to positive outcomes. And, as we have all seen, in the high pressure world of law enforcement – an “attitude” can get you killed. It is far better to start every encounter with other people using the golden rule – and treat them as you hope they will treat you.