Sounds of Home: Speaking with Respect

Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend explains five rules that can help, and the challenges to go with them.

Keep Private Things Private

Respecting another person’s privacy is one of the most noble ways to honor and show respect to another human being. In our lives, each of us has done embarrassing and stupid things that we’re not proud of. We all have a number of skeletons in the closet and we would rather keep that door closed tightly. Respecting another person’s privacy is a sign that you understand their heart, their fears, and their hopes for the future. Protecting the dignity of our family members means that we show our family members that we know who they really are and that we will help to promote the healthiest view of that person to others around us. It also means that we keep confidences; we don’t share personal secrets, stories or histories about others or information about others that we haven’t received permission to share with others. We also don’t invade others belongings, emails, text messages or eavesdrop on their conversations.

Challenge:Make a commitment to keep the secrets and confidences that others have entrusted to you.

Be Loyal To the Absent

Nothing communicates your level of respect more than what you say about someone when you have nothing to gain by saying it. The best way to show people that you will respect them is to show them how you talk about other people in your life when they’re not around. We’ve all been in a conversation where someone excuses themselves from the group and the minute they’re out of earshot, others begin talking negatively about them. Do you ever wonder what that person says about you when you’re not around? The fast way to gain ground with other people is not to tear someone down but to lift others up.

Challenge: Make a special effort this holiday season to talk positively about your spouse to others. Say five positive things about him/her every day. Additionally, you could even say them to your spouse!

It’s More About Your Delivery Than Your Intent

Many people end up offending others around them with something they said only to brush it off with the reply, “Well that wasn’t my intent.” It’s easy to just assume you had the goodwill in your heart; the hard thing is to make sure your delivery matches the desires of your heart. One key to respecting another person in your speech is when you care as much about your delivery as you do your own motives. Three areas where many people find their conversations get derailed are on the Tones, Topics and Timing.

1. Tones – Negative, sarcastic or biting tones are obvious signs that the speech will not be received well. Avoid put downs or joking at someone’s expense.
2. Topics – Certain topics like sex, money, your in-laws and your partner’s work ethic are inherently tricky, so approach them with care. Make rules for how to handle toxic topics.

3. Timing – Nothing triggers disrespect more than a self-serving, ill-timed conversation or question, like reviewing your carpool schedule with a friend right after she told you that her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

Challenge: Focus your effort on getting better with your delivery during communication. In a stressful conversation this week, conscientiously think about having a positive tone, making rules about the topic and improving your timing.

Wow Them with Words of Respect

While in grade school I attended a private school where they drilled in our heads the power of words to show respect. We learned to always say “Please,” “Thank you,” “Excuse me,” “May I,” and “I’m sorry.” I’m worried that our families aren’t learning the respect-inducing power of those few phrases. I look at my children who could accidently trample over their little brother and the words, “I’m sorry” might not ever be spoken. Instead you might hear excuses for their behavior like, “You were in the way!” or “You’ve got to watch out!” I smile to think that today if you were accidentally forced off a 50 foot cliff by a fellow driver, the closest thing you’d get to an apology is “My bad”! Words do matter, especially the consistent and deliberate words of respect. When you use the words of respect you create an opportunity to place the other person in a place of respect. You recognize that you are choosing to honor a fellow human being and not just take advantage of them.

Challenge: Increase your use of respecting words like please, thank you, excuse me and I’m sorry by sincerely saying each of them to a member of your family during the dinner hour tonight.

Pay Attention While Others Speak

If the President of the United States walked in and wanted to have a heart to heart talk with you, would you listen? How would you end up paying attention? What would be different about that conversation than your day to day talk with your family? One of the best ways to respect another person is to actually listen to what they’re saying. Be present in the conversation, show that you really care. Don’t let your mind wander as you’re together. Avoid the dueling monologues where your head is reacting to what is being said and preparing your next barrage of comments. Instead, truly show a deep level of respect for your partner by attentively listening to what they’re saying.

Challenge: Show your partner, child or friend that you respect them by listening intently to their words. Do this by asking about something important to them and then listening without responding for at least three minutes.

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