Respect Me!

I recently facilitated conflict resolution sessions at an Old Age Home in Bishop Lavis. The tenants are not wealthy and most of them receive SASSA grants as their only source of income.

I expected shared living, boredom and residual anger against the injustices of life to feature strongly in the sessions. I was wrong. Respect or rather the lack thereof, was the main point of contention, grief and animated discussion.

All the general issues of why conflict ignites were imbedded somewhere and could possibly be unearthed and explained with lots of time and patience but the most obvious was sadder and closer to home. I don’t feel seen or heard, therefore I create conflict because negative attention is better than no attention.

The smallest slight is experienced as disrespect. This creates a vicious circle of greeting, not greeting or completely ignoring each other to the point of not calling for help when someone is in need of it. Back to square one, amplified, intensified and backed-up with new evidence of disrespect. After (very) patient focus on behaviours and practical examples and requests for what respect actually looks like for anyone regardless of whether you are 65 or 85, we developed a lovely set of guidelines that everyone agreed to implement. (The feedback 8 months down the line is that it is still working!)

The guidelines focused on practical gestures, empathy and patience. As simple as: if someone doesn't greet you back, don't assume they are ignoring you, they might not have heard you. Walk up to them, look them in the eye and say; "Good morning!'. No anger, no resentment and no assumptions.

Although this happened in an Old Age Home, just imagine the implications and change in atmosphere and productivity if we all felt respected in the workplace.

Next time you feel disrespected, hurt, angry and not seen, think about:

1. How will you know if you are being respected or not?

2. How do you feel if you are being disrespected?

3. Why does this bother you?

4. What behaviours do you see and value as respect?

Some examples to help you: Is respect being greeted, being included, being asked for permission, the way you are addressed?

Be clear about this because you can only influence others to treat you with respect if you can give people actual examples of how you would like to be treated.

5. How do you show your respect to other people?

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Tiny Empire,

37 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town

+27 82 709 7657

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