People are more likely to respect individuals rather than a certain title or position they hold. I’ve found there are 3 behaviours in particular that should be practiced by individuals to earn respect, with communication as the foundation of each.

1. Build mutual respect

To earn respect you must first respect others. In a working environment, it’s important to have an understanding of what your colleagues work on, as this allows you to appreciate the time and attention they give you in return. You don’t want to waste people’s precious time and they (hopefully) don’t want to waste yours, which leads to a mutual understanding. In the office, leaders should respect their employees just as much as their employees respect them.

Respecting yourself, understanding your individual role and responsibilities in the team, and appreciating your job will also lay the foundations of appreciation with colleagues. Open channels of communication allow for an easy flow of information—business and personal—which will help build mutual respect and understanding.

2. Communicate effectively

As you would have learned throughout your career, respect must be earned. In earning someone’s esteem, it’s imperative that you spend time listening and understanding fully what is needed from you. Ask questions to make sure you are on the right track or if there is more you could be doing. Ensure you are meeting what is initially required of you before you go out of your way trying to prove yourself with other tasks.

From a position of leadership, effective communication is integral when directing employees and addressing clients. Being clear, succinct, and communicating directly to your desired audience prevents confusion or miscommunication. Conviction in your role as a leader will inspire confidence and motivation in your team. Not only will communication establish respect, it will sustain the symbiotic relationship throughout the organisation.

Naturally, listening also plays a critical role in building respect. Regardless of the position you are in, paying attention to what people are saying will allow you to engage with them and provide reflective feedback. Showing you have listened by responding adequately or summarising the main points of the conversation will demonstrate your respect for them and their time.

3. Communicate honestly

Honest communication facilitates trusting relationships between individuals. Although trust and respect are not the same thing, they tend to coincide with each other. Trust is generally gained through an individual’s actions, whereas respect is based on skill set and character. As a leader, it is very important that you are honest and keep your promises with both employees and clients. Honesty generates goodwill in the office, and creates a positive business culture that will be reflected in external work practices. Being consistent and honouring commitments builds trust between both clients and colleagues.