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The Human Art of Networking: The Third Gift: Respect

Of all the gifts we bring, Respect may be the most difficult to fully embrace. While it is easy to respect someone who walks through the world much as we do or as we would like to, how do we respect someone who walks a very different path?

Another question might be “Why would I want to?”

Let’s look at the concept of respect for a moment. Respect is typically an aspect of reverence for one who has accomplished something noteworthy. Often the accomplishment is something we ourselves aspire to, or dream of. And almost without fail the recipient of our respect sees the world much as we do and lives by a familiar moral code.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of respect. However, it is wise to consider the degree to which it may be a form of self gratification. If we only give respect to those who reinforce our own system of beliefs, might it be said that our gift is in some way an act of selfishness? …honoring that which is a reflection of our own self image?

This might be an overstatement. But for the purpose of comparison, let’s examine respect of another sort.

Respect can also be a way to acknowledge the integrity and truth of another human being, regardless of their similarity to you. You may not like someone. You might even actively dislike someone. Yet you can still respect them. But it’s not easy.

We are not designed for such altruism. And our social structures emphasize strengthening what we know, more than embracing what we don’t.

In order to build the capacity to respect a multitude of others, we have to start by recognizing the existence of a multitude of truths.

Each of us walks through life with our own understanding of what is true and right. It is only natural that as we interact with others, who all have their own truth which varies from our own to some degree, that we would perceive their truth to be ‘off’. But none of us are right.

No one among us has the whole truth. But each of us has a piece of it. Only by seeking to understand the truths of others can we expand our own.

There are a couple ways to do this.

First, seek out common ground. Back in the days when my job was to bring together community members to tackle the really difficult questions I had an epiphany:

There are no two people who have ever walked this earth
who couldn’t sit down over a local brew 
and find common ground upon which to build.

Any two people who come together with a desire to find shared threads of experience and understanding will find them. Even if the only commonality they can find is that they both share the miracle of their existence; that they were born into this world and inhabit it together. That alone is more than enough to start with. All it takes is willingness.

Next, acknowledge others’ strengths. This can be a powerful activity when you are struggling to move beyond a fundamental dislike. If you can set aside your predispositions and focus on what they do well, you’ll find opportunities for esteem. With enough esteem perhaps a simple respect of ability will take root.

The basic gift of respect need only recognize that everyone we meet walks their own path. And we respect them to the degree they walk that path with integrity.

Seeking common ground and acknowledging others’ strengths are both manifestations of respect, as well as a habit that can strengthen one’s respect for another over time.

But what if you just can’t do it?

There will always be people who outstrip our capacity to be generous. What then?

It can be hard to know what to do. But it’s easy to know what not to do: Don’t Lie!

I recognize that networking is a relationship building process. But authenticity is more important than any connection that demands that you lie.

Set that attempted relationship aside. Times change. People change. You never know…the future may bring you back together in an entirely new and productive way.

This human art called networking is not black and white. As humans we all have our limits. We are not going to, nor should we need to, build productive relationships with everyone we come across.

But, with nothing more than the willingness to try, we can learn to respect people who see the world very differently from us.

All is takes is:

  • Recognizing that there is a multitude of truths,

  • Seeking out common ground, and

  • Acknowledging the strengths of others.

Clearly, this is much more than a mere business concern. It is a way to walk through the world and foster peace.

So, here’s to Respect…may it bring you much success through broader and deeper relationships. And may it also bring you peace along your journey.

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