We have written about the key elements of our CLRS Approach (Curiosity, Listen, Respect, and Support), and have provided in-depth information about Curiosity and Listening. Now I want to dive in with you around Respect.
“Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”
Respect means that you accept somebody for who they are and their lived experience. They may be different from you in some ways or have had different experiences, or you might not agree with them. Respect builds feelings of trust, safety, and wellbeing. Most importantly, respect doesn’t come naturally – it is something you learn.
Respect means to treat the other person as your equal in dignity and worth as a human being. Respect requires empathy and has varying levels of depth. On the surface, it’s not hard to accept where anyone is coming from with their opinions or narratives. This acceptance is one of the ingredients of respect.
Another critical ingredient of respect is the suspension of judgment. You withhold judgment about their feelings or actions and you do not shame or blame them for their choices or behaviors. This can be challenging when they share deep emotions such as despair, grief, loneliness, or when they describe experiences that you may not have had. When they have made choices that you disagree with on moral or ethical grounds, you hold to the possibility that they were solving a problem in a way that worked for them at that moment.
Suspending judgment requires staying in an observer mindset and using your active listening skills. While you are listening, truly take in not only the words, but the full communication from body language, breathing, and your intuition. From this place of respect, you can truly receive what the other person is communicating.
If you find yourself thinking – “I would have never made that choice”, then you are still judging and not respecting them as a person on a journey. This goes back to empathy and putting yourself a mile in their shoes. if you had their personality, traits, life experiences, coping skills, and same maturity level, how might you feel?
The final ingredient of respect is respecting their needs (spoken or unspoken). This element of respect empowers them to choose their own course of action and not thinking, “I know what they need”. Giving them the space to figure it out on their own; making their own decisions will deepen their respect for you and their own ability to take charge of their life.
Don’t tell them what they need (or what you think they need).
If you catch yourself telling them what they need, acknowledge it, and move back to focusing on them and helping them process through it. That is how you respect them and their needs, not yours.
Think of a scenario in which you would be prone to tell a student or a colleague what they need or what they should do. How would you handle that differently now?
In many ways, respect is the foundation upon which healthy rapport is built. This creates an environment that fosters understanding, empathy, and ultimately trust. Once that trust is established the notion of support, the next part of the approach, becomes both achievable and welcome.