Respect isn’t just a song by Aretha Franklin. It’s a professional courtesy that goes hand in hand with communication at work. When you respectfully communicate with colleagues – regardless of the level of respect you feel for the person – you earn big professional points that help you go far in your career.
Respectful Body Language
The saying “show some respect” means that respect is definitely something you demonstrate. And the best way to do that is through your actions. You may be a master multi-tasker, but the key to showing respect to a colleague is to give her your undivided attention when she’s speaking to show her you’re really listening. Ignore your phone or that entertaining YouTube video and look your coworker in the eye, nodding your head every so often. Even if you completely disagree with what she’s saying, resist the temptation to roll your eyes, sigh heavily or make faces, as these actions demonstrate a lack of respect and maturity.
Because so much corporate communication is electronic, such as email, it’s natural to assume you understand what a coworker wrote. But you know what they say: “Assume and you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” Making sure you’re on the same page with the intended meaning of a coworker’s communications avoids misunderstandings and increases respect. Asking a question, such as “when you say [insert phrase from email], do you mean [insert your assumed meaning]?” confirms assumptions to keep things clear and to keep cool heads.
Focus on Understanding
While you’re climbing the corporate ladder, it’s normal to be anxious to prove yourself and stand out. In doing this, however, it’s easy to get so caught up in thinking of the next thing you want to say that you forget to truly listen to whoever is speaking. Respectful communication involves really listening to whoever is speaking and paying more attention to understanding her point than agreeing with it. Refrain from interrupting and allow coworkers to finish their thoughts before you speak. To demonstrate you heard what the speaker said, take a second to briefly acknowledge it with a “That’s a good point” and restate a bit of what she said. Then move forward to make your brilliant point. Your coworker will feel heard and respected – and show you respect in return.
Accentuate the Positive
Disagreeing with respect is one of the most important things you can do to remain professional in communicating with colleagues. Even if you think your coworker’s point is complete madness, keep that to yourself and keep the conversation positive. Concede the parts of your coworker’s point that have merit before adding your own to lower her defensiveness and promote cooperation and mutual respect.
Jennafer Martin has more than 14 years of experience in writing, editing and brand management for literary, business-to-business and consumer publications. She is a writer for Zoe Soul Spa and "Pets in the City" magazine.