3 Must Know Rules to Earn Respect

respectHave you ever been in a situation where you deserved more respect, but you couldn’t command it?

Feeling respected is a huge part of happiness. When we feel respected we are more confident.

This confidence carries into our interactions. When we are confident we want to improve friendships. We want to hang out. We want to jump into new projects that will challenge us.

Of course we all feel weak in certain situations. We can’t help but feel this way because we can’t be amazing in every situation. Sometimes we have to be humble and accept our situation at the moment. This can be good for you when you are a student learning from a teacher, but when you are expected to command respect you don’t have this option.

You have to know the hidden rules of communication that many people don’t realize exist.

We Aren’t Created Equal

You know that I’ve struggled with my work happiness. I’ve improved, but I still struggle. My career happiness fluctuates on a daily basis. I think a big part of my unhappiness in the past was due to my lack of respect from co-workers, friends, and strangers.

I wanted people to give me the respect that I hadn’t earned. When I stopped expecting respect there was a small shift in my attitude. I started developing ways to gain more respect.

I dissected how I’ve gained respect over the past few years and how it can be applied to other people’s lives and careers. There are 3 rules that we all must cultivate so we can unleash our superpowers to the world.

My Friend’s Story

I have a friend who can captivate an audience talking about cat litter. He literally can talk about the intricacies of cat litter for a long time, all the way down to how well it clumps. I’ve seen him do it. It’s not pretty, but it’s always fascinating.

He can also talk about the importance of communication in the workplace, but that doesn’t matter.

The message is important, but not really as important as two other skills I will discuss.

Before we get into those other skills I do want to talk about the message that you communicate.

1. Believe in Your Message

What you say is not as important as you complete dedication and belief in your message. If you don’t believe in your message then the other two skills won’t matter.

You have to have a message that is from your heart. That means you must know exactly what you want to communicate to people.

The best way to command respect is to align what you care about the most with what your audience cares about the most. If you aren’t sure what they care about, go to their Blog, Twitter or Facebook page and find out.

Once you have the concept of your message, the hard part begins.

2. Master Your Body Language

The second most important way to command respect is to take control of your body language. This is hard for most of us. The problem is that we aren’t all trained actors and most of us don’t study our movements in the mirror.

You don’t need to study at Juilliard to be able to apply the concepts of using your body language to gain respect.

You just have to learn the top 3 rules of body language.

#1. Adjust the Angle of Your Body

People want to feel attractive. If you aren’t sure how to make this happen then you are missing out on a huge part of gaining respect. I’m not talking about flirting and making people feel uncomfortable.

I’m talking about adjusting the angle of your body to show people that you care about who they are.

When you turn away from people, you aren’t projecting confidence. You look like you are trying to hide something. You look like you don’t want to be there with them.

When you are trying to project confidence you need to face people, so they feel like you like them. Of course it also helps to actually like them because the interaction will be more authentic.

#2. Lift Your Shoulders

The way your shoulders look indicates the way you are feeling. When your shoulders are slumped, you are conceding your 2nd tier status. When your shoulders are pulled up, you are showing that you aren’t scared.

You must show that you deserve respect. When you develop strong shoulders you are sending positive signals to yourself to attract more confidence. It’s the subtle signals that your shoulders give that you need to be aware of. When you believe in yourself, you convey signals that people want to follow.

#3. Use Your Facial Expressions Wisely

The most important visual signal is your facial expressions. People want to see how you react to a certain situation.

If you are in front of a crowd and you have a blank look on your face, they may take that as a sign that you are scared. If you aren’t smiling, they will most likely see this as a sign that you don’t want to be there.

I could just advise you to learn to smile more, but that’s not how interactions work. You have to be yourself. Smiling like a fool all the time will fool a small percentage of dummies who you really don’t want on your side anyway.

You have to learn to be yourself and allow your facial expressions to emerge naturally. The problem is that most people don’t realize what they are conveying. When you ask a question and people ignore you, what are you doing wrong? This is the point when you have to look in the mirror and try seeing what other people see. I also like to do this with a video camera. Make sure you delete them after you are done, so nothing leaks out to your Facebook friends.

After practicing using your facial expressions by yourself, you have to take it to the next level. Try them out on your co-workers, friends, and family. Are they paying more attention to you?

The more you practice commanding attention, the easier it will be to get the desired results.

3. Expressiveness

James Earl Jones was able to convey Darth Vador’s complicated evilness through his voice. He found the right tone and the rest is history.

The speakers you enjoy aren’t saying anything that new. They are speaking from their hearts and you are connecting with what they are saying in a new way.

You have to find out how you can deliver your message in a way that’s from your heart and feels new to the people who are listening to you.

This takes a lot of practice. I’ve been at it for over 2 years and I’m finally learning how to express myself so I hold people’s attention.

Putting Your Confidence on Display

Many of us don’t want to put ourselves out there to be judged. Our fear gets the best of our rational minds. We may know that we need to put ourselves out there in order to develop our strengths, but we resist because of how we think other people will react.

The knowing is easy, but acting on this information is hard.

You have to create a plan that will help you build the confidence to garner the respect that you deserve.

Your Plan for Respect

Know your Needs

You have to know how you want to be treated. If you want people to ask for your opinion then you have to be knowledgeable. If you want people to stop making jokes then you must find a way to create leverage and command respect.

Once you know your needs, you can begin to create small tests to see what feels right.

Test Your Ideas

This is where you have to embrace that fear and use it to help you develop your confidence. I have a client who hated marketing. She didn’t want to be on Facebook, Twitter, or do anything to grow her customer base.

We talked about her resistance and we saw a pattern. She didn’t want people to think that she was a fraud. She felt that if she put hours and hours into Twitter or Facebook that she would just be laughed at by more people. This can be scary, but the idea of closing down her business was even scarier. She knew what she needed to focus her energy on.

We talked about how we can measure her efforts and what was working and what wasn’t. Once she understood how to start small, we created a plan that made it easy for her to start and stay with her plan.

Fix and Adjust

After testing out your ideas, it’s important to understand what is working and what isn’t. Too many of us have ideas that sound great but just don’t work.

When you are trying to build your confidence, you have to be willing to admit mistakes. This willingness will help you build the confidence you need to gain the respect that will help you grow your career.

Putting it all Together

If you want to develop the respect that you feel you deserve, you have to be willing to put yourself out there to be judged. It’s the catch 22 of respect. We feel that if we put ourselves out there that we will be laughed at, so we hesitate to develop our superpowers.

You may encounter some small failures in the short term, but if you keep noticing your changing needs, testing out new theories, fixing the mistakes, and adjusting along the way, you’ll notice that you will command more respect every week.

You have to set the tone of your relationships. If someone at work isn’t treating you with the respect that you deserve, then you have to be willing to teach people how you want to be treated.  That means telling people what you expect, showing people how you want to be treated, and setting limits that are clear and easy to apply.

Your Turn

How do you gain respect from your peers?

When you feel disrespected, what do you do to gain that respect back?

* Need help leveraging your superpowers? Then check out my Superpower Coaching to see how I can help you bring in more clients, become more productive, and feel less stressed out.

* Many of you know I’m a big fan of Charlie’s productivity methods because it isn’t just about getting things done. It’s about how we feel through the process as well. I liked his post on not being the underdog and how it feels to be passed over to not contribute to something you would be perfect for.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like these too:

> How to Discover Your Superpowers

> The Law of Attraction and Your Career


  1. Hi Karl,
    I believe when we really listen to other people we gain their respect. I like to talk less and listen more. I’ve never walked away from a situation saying I wish I wouldn’t have listened so much.

    • Hi Tess, Great point. Listening is a skill that can bring a lot of respect to a relationship. This skill can also help us create deeper relationships. Relationships fall apart because both sides don’t listen to each others needs. When both sides are open to what each other need there can be support, compromise, and love to forward both side’s causes.

      Thanks for sharing Tess. I may have to put an addendum in this article.

  2. Karl,
    I’m with Tess, also – listening (really listening) is one of those qualities that really does makes a difference.

    Another one for me is patience. When I am patient with others, I believe that it shows also that I care. And showing care is a great way to earn respect (in my book). On the flipside, I also know people who are, by nature, very impatient. And they too, command respect…

    • Hi Lance, Patience is another great way to earn respect. When we take the time to care about other people they do the same for us.

      I’m so glad I have such awesome readers. You see things that add a lot of depth and understanding to my posts.

  3. Hi Karl,

    I’m thirding Tess’s comment about listening and seconding Lance’s comment about being patient with others. If you genuinely want to cultivate the respect of your peers, supervisor or people who report to you, start by giving them the respect they deserve as fellow human beings. I’ve seen leaders try to “command” respect through instilling fear or being a bully, but it usually back-fires in the end because it’s not genuine respect.

    I would add two more points on the various strategies you’ve listed for appearing more confident: Watch the inflection of the words when you’re speaking. An upward inflection seems to turn every statement or word into a question and implies uncertainty about your subject. How quickly you speak also influences perceptions of your level of confidence. I think and speak fast, and I realized that I had to slow down as speaking quickly-even when my thoughts are well organized–is perceived as nervousness or defensiveness rather than confidence.

    Have a great day.

    • Hi Sue, Your two points are on the money. Our voice inflection is so important. When we come from a place of confidence we create authority that commands respect.

      I also like what you said about speaking fast. When we can send the wrong message. Great thoughts.

  4. I earn respect in a simple way, yet it’s difficult to do. I respect others, in every situation, even when they haven’t earned it. It’s about who I am, not about what behaviour the other person is currently displaying. If we offer respect only when we judge it’s been earned, let’s face it, most people aren’t going to garner it on a daily basis. But if we just know that we will be respectful in every situation, it frees us to be confident in who we are, and as you pointed out, confidence wins respect.

    • Hi Audra, It’s hard to respect other people when they haven’t earned it. I like that you give respect no matter what. You are a strong person.

      It’s true, people have faults and we can’t expect them to be perfect. By opening up and accepting them for everything they are, they are more willing to do the same for us.

  5. Hi Karl

    Oooh! This is one of those top 10 articles that should become the best of Work Happy Now! I love it and it is exactly what I needed to read today. I am doing more speaking these days and hearing those magic word of believing in my message is huge! When I don’t think about it, it comes out naturally and my audience can tell by their captivation. It is only when I over think something, then I tense up and my body lets me know I am not on the right track.

    And I so agree, respect cannot be demanded, it truly has to be earned. And if we can remember this, we can focus on the most important aspect in that, what matters is what we are doing, not what the other is. If we want respect, we simply need to be ourselves, live up to our highest potential, provide value to others and share our talents generously.

  6. Hi Karl. I love this post and you make some excellent points. I truly believe that people respond to the “vibrations” that we give off. When we are confident and genuine, it shines through. And these are the things that people are looking for. These are the things that lead people to respect us and to see our value.

  7. Beautiful breakdown and I like the way you kept it both simple and actionable. I think the other key is that you focused on leading the change from the inside out. Way to go.

  8. I think body language is so important in order to gain respect. Competitive speaking teaches how to own the space you are in, but also to demand respect in a respectful manner. That manner is through body language Great article!