Respectfulness involves treating others with courtesy and consideration, and being mindful of their feelings and needs.
In the workplace, for example, employees who are respectful of their colleagues are typically more collaborative and productive. Respectful employees are also more likely to create a positive work environment and to be successful in their careers.
This is why some employers want you to demonstrate examples of respect in an interview or job application.
Examples of respectfulness include:
- Saying please and thank you
- Waiting for permission to enter a room
- Waiting in line
- Not interrupting others
- Saying sorry when you are wrong
- Not gossiping
- Tolerating differences of opinion
1. Saying Please and Thank you
Saying please and thank you is a customary way to demonstrate that you respect the people around you. If you think about it, these phrases don’t really have much meaning on their own. Some societies don’t even say please and thank you as much as we do.
It’s just a way society has integrated manners and civility into public conversation. But, it can also be argued that it has become so customary that it’s not really a sign of gratitude or respect for the people around you – it’s just a reflex action that we’ve been trained to do since childhood.
2. Waiting for Permission to Enter a Room
As a child, I remember my teachers would always tell me I had to wait outside of the classroom and I would have to get permission to enter.
For children, this was probably to make sure they don’t harm themselves in an unsupervised room.
But for adults, it’s because we need to respect other people’s privacy. Waiting for permission gives people a chance to make sure their private goods are stored away, and even that they have an opportunity to make sure their space is clean and ready for guests before you enter.
3. Waiting in Line
Waiting in line, or a queue, is respectful because it shows that you understand that people who arrived before you have the right to receive service first. This is a very important convention in the United Kingdom and you may be considered rude if you don’t politely stand in the queue.
In other cultures, people tend not to be so patient (I noticed when I moved to North America that queues were less respected, for example). But waiting in line remains an important convention in one form or another in most cultures.
4. Not Interrupting Others
It’s considered rude to cut someone off mid-sentence. We’re expected to patiently wait for people to complete their thought before responding. Instead, a polite thing to do is nod, smile, and make eye contact to show that you are listening.
Sometimes, you will see moderators interrupting people on television or in debates. In these instances, they can get away with it without being disrespectful. This is because it’s their job to make sure everyone gets their allotted time to speak, they don’t go off track, and the discussion is completed in the allocated time slot.
For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait patiently and listen before responding!
5. Saying Sorry when you are Wrong
Saying sorry when you are wrong is an indication to people that you respect them and their feelings. It’s also a sign of humility and the ability to take responsibility for yourself.
However, some people find it tough to say sorry. Often, people see it as a sign of weakness or they’re simply unable to experience the emotion of contrition. In reality, apologizing shows high emotional intelligence and maturity.
As with many examples of respect, the concept behind saying sorry returns us to the golden rule of “do unto others as you would like done to yourself”. We would like people who have hurt us to apologize, so as a result, we should also apologize when it’s required.
6. Avoiding Put-Downs or Sarcasm
Put-downs and sarcasm are two signs of disrespect. A put-down is an insult that makes someone feel worse about themselves, highlights their weaknesses, or intentionally hurts their feelings. Sarcasm is similar. It involves making snarky and ironic comments that are designed to make people feel bad about themselves.
A respectful person would not do this. Even when they’re around people they don’t like, they will avoid making hurtful comments. Instead, they would follow the rule “if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
7. Not Laughing at Others’ Misfortune
Examples of misfortune might include if someone falls over, or if they fail an exam, or if they lose money somehow.
When you laugh at their misfortune, you are making them feel bad about themselves. We have an idiom “don’t kick people when they’re down” which refers to this concept. Simply, it means that when someone is hurting, don’t hurt them more!
So, a respectful person will keep a person’s feelings in mind and show compassion and understanding rather than causing harm with your words.
8. Not making Assumptions
Making assumptions is disrespectful because you are not taking the time to understand someone else’s opinion or perspective. Assumptions can also be wrong and cause hurt feelings.
For example, if you assume that someone is lazy because they don’t want to do a certain task, you might be wrong. They may have other commitments that are more important to them, or they may not feel well.
Assumptions also lead to stereotyping, which is when we make judgments about people based on our preconceived notions. This is unfair to the person because they are an individual, not a type.
To be respectful, it’s important to avoid making assumptions and instead take the time to get to know someone before passing judgment.
9. Not Gossiping
Gossiping occurs when you talk about other people behind their back. It’s a form of disrespect because it involves talking about someone else in a negative. Worse, you’re doing it when they are not present so they can’t defend themselves.
Gossiping is harmful because it can spread false information, or it can hurt people’s feelings. It’s also a sign of low emotional intelligence because it usually arises from petty arguments and jealousy.
A respectful person avoids gossiping and instead chooses to talk about people in a positive way, or not at all.
10. Listening to Others’ Points of View
A respectful person will always listen to other people’s opinions. Consider a person who doesn’t listen to other people’s points of view: they will get stuck in their ways and will ignore other people, even if other people have valid points.
This sort of person also wouldn’t make too many friends!
On the other hand, by listening to other people’s points of view, you can gain a new perspective or viewpoint. In addition, it demonstrates respect for the other person’s thoughts and feelings.
Furthermore, listening allows you to build better relationships with others because it shows that you care about what they have to say.
11. Showing Consideration for Others
Consideration means thinking about someone else and taking them into account when you interact with that person.
For example, if you’re in a library, you need to show consideration for other people who are studying and reading. A respectful library patron will be considerate of readers around them by trying not to talk too loudly or rudely interrupt them.
By contrast, an inconsiderate person in the library would make a lot of noise, and frustrate the people around them. Clearly, this disrespects everyone else and denies them the right to use the library in peace.
12. Tolerating Others’ Beliefs and Customs
A respectful person accepts that people have different beliefs and customs. Even if they don’t agree with these beliefs, or find them strange or ridiculous, they will still respect the other person’s right to believe what they want.
For example, an atheist might not understand why someone would believe in a god. However, they would still respect the other person’s right to hold this belief.
Tolerating others’ beliefs also involves being open-minded. This means that you’re willing to listen to and understand other people’s perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them.
13. Giving the Benefit of the Doubt
The benefit of the doubt is when you give someone the chance to explain themselves before passing judgment. It’s important to do this because it shows that you respect them and their opinion.
Giving people the benefit of the doubt also allows you to gather more information before making a decision. For example, if your friend seems upset with you, you might give them the benefit of the doubt and check in with them to determine what’s wrong.
This also helps prevent prejudice and stereotyping.
In short, giving people the benefit of the doubt shows that you acknowledge their right to a fair hearing.
14. Not Rushing to Judgment
We often have unconscious biases that lead us to judge other people unfairly. You might not even realize that you’re doing it!
When you meet someone new, try not to immediately jump to conclusions about them. Instead, take the time to get to know them better. This way, you can avoid passing judgment too quickly.
There is a concept in psychology call heuristics that explains this. It involves making mental shortcuts that can help you to think faster but often leads to bad (and, in our case, disrespectful) behavior. For example, an affective heuristic involves making decisions based on emotion rather than thinking through a situation logically.
15. Listening Attentively
Listening is a key part of showing respect. Listening attentively means giving the other person your full attention and trying to understand their point of view.
It can be easy to get distracted when somebody else is talking. However, it’s important to try to focus on what they’re saying so that you can really understand their perspective.
One way you can improve your listening skills is by using active listening strategies. Examples of active listening strategies include making eye contact, nodding your head, and paraphrasing what the other person has said.
16. Not Criticizing People in their own Home
When you’re a guest in someone’s home, it’s important to respect their rules and customs. For example, if they like to pray before eating, it’s disrespectful to laugh at them for doing this.
It’s also important not to criticize the way they run their household. Remember, you’re a guest in their home and they have the right to do things their own way.
It’s also usually respectful to try to conform to their requirements and way of doing things in their house unless it contravenes your ethics.
17. Being Patient with People
Patience is a virtue! Showing patience towards others is a sign of respect.
It can be difficult to be patient, especially when someone is doing something that you don’t agree with. However, it’s important to remember that everyone has their own way of doing things and that we all move at our own pace.
Patience as an example of respect might occur in a staff meeting. Someone might step up and make an argument that you disagree with. Despite your disagreement, you might decide to be respectful and hear them out, listen to their logic, and try to consider their position on the topic.
18. Not Speaking Ill of the Dead
Even if you didn’t like the person when they were alive, it’s important to respect them after they’ve passed away. This is because their family and friends are likely to be grieving and they don’t need you to add to their pain.
When somebody dies, it’s polite to offer your condolences to their family and friends.
One other reason not to speak ill of the dead is that they don’t have a chance to defend themselves. Therefore, it’s thought to be respectful to let the dead rest in peace and to no longer carry on about any feuds you had with them.
19. Showing Gratitude
When you are grateful for what someone has done for you, it demonstrates that you appreciate them.
It’s important to say “thank you” when somebody does something for you, even if it’s just a small thing. For example, if someone holds the door open for you, be sure to say “thank you.”
Saying “please” and “thank you” are common examples of showing respect.
Other Employability Skills
- Examples of Honesty
- Examples of Talents
- Examples of Integrity
- Proactive Examples
- Adaptable Examples
- Types of Skills
- Skills for Teachers
- Soft Skills for Teachers
- Examples of Patience
- Morals Examples
- Persistence Examples
Ultimately, respectfulness is about creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding. When we treat others with respect, we not only make them feel valued, but we also set the foundation for positive, productive relationships.
If you’re asked to show examples of respectfulness in a job interview, remember to focus on your ability to listen attentively, be patient, and show gratitude. By demonstrating these qualities, you’ll demonstrate your respectfulness and highlight your suitability for the job.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.