How To Respect People You Disdain

You care deeply about breakthrough results. This guy’s a jerk. No no, not just annoying, a poster-child good blocker. You’ve got stories.

Be careful. Two disrespects don’t build respect.

In full disclosure,  I don’t have this mastered. The worst moments of my career have come from the times I let the one or two really nasty, disrespectful (I’m tempted to say “evil”) human beings get underneath my skin and bring out the worst in me.

I’m learning to respect myself enough to seek to find something to respect in even the most ridiculous human beings. The process is important. When I look hard enough it’s often amazing what good or reason is lurking beneath the surface.

5 Ways to Respect People You Disdain

“If we lose love and respect for one another, this is how we finally die.” -Maya Angelou

1. Hang Around Them

“Really Karin, are you crazy? What about the wisdom of being the sum of the people you spend your time with?” Okay, okay, don’t EXCLUSIVELY hang around them, and don’t let their nasty ways rub off. But there’s something to be said for propinquity. Investing time in the relationship may surface an additional understanding.

2. Take the Balcony View

I love the wisdom of William Ury shares in The Power of a Positive No to extract yourself from the emotions of the situation and consider a more objective view.

The balcony is a detached state of mind you can access anytime you chose. Imagine yourself for a moment as an actor on a stage about to speak your line– your no. Now picture yourself up on a balcony overlooking the stage, a place where you can see the scene clearly from afar. The balcony is a place of perspective, calm and clarity.

The balcony is a great place to look for reasons to respect.

3. Stop Dissing them Behind Their Back

It’s impossible to feel genuine respect, or even treat people with respect, if you’re talking poorly about them to yourself or others.

4. Engage Real Conversation

Encourage them to share their opinions and really listen to what they have to say. Try having a conversation with the sole intension of really hearing them (rather than responding with your views). Look them in the eye. It’s amazing how often that will encourage them to respond in kind.

5. Seek Out Positive Views

Look for people who do respect this individual and find out why. There may just be more to him or her than you’ve seen so far.

Respect brings out desirable qualities in ourselves and others.

Respects begets respect.

Let’s keep trying.

Posted in Career & Learning, Communication, Employee Engagement & Energy, Everything Else and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of several books: Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates (Harper Collins Summer 2020), Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. You are so brave to tackle this subject and I give you credit for being so honest yourself.

    We all come across people we have no respect for and keeping our calm and professionalism is key. I once collaborated with someone who I lost respect for early on. I did complete the project, made the presentation but moved away from her when I could. I find that when we have bosses or co-workers who don’t show us respect, it is best to kill them with kindness and never allow them to join our world in any meaningful way. Keep them at bay.

    I love the “balcony” metaphor!

    Thanks Karin!

    • Thanks so much. Terri, I’m with you the kindness thing can go a long way. If they still act jerky after that, at least they probaby feel silly about it.

  2. Thank-you Karin for your perspective, hoenesty, and advice. I have always found it hard to respect those that are on the attack.

    I appreciate this post and found the “balcony view” and to seek our positive views will help me as I work towards building positive relationships with those that are challenging.

    • Nicole, So awesome to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your perspctive! Yeah, I though Ury’s concept of the balcony was useful. We’re using his book in the MBA class I’m teaching on managing difficult people.

  3. Hi Karin,

    I learned an exercise this week similar to your balcony view.

    Position two chairs facing each other. Place a third chair to the side/middle that can observe. Sit in the first chair as yourself and reply the situation from your perspective – you know, the perspective that was the correct one :-).

    Next, sit in the chair across and become that other person. Essentially, you become him/her. You see everything through their eyes.

    Next, you sit in the third chair and become still another person – someone you don’t even know, who is disassociated from the event and observes the situation. (Make believe the person is from another planet)

    Final step, go back and sit in the first chair with your new knowledge and see if things look different for you.

    Personally, I found this to be quite powerful in ways of looking at things differently.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Bill, that’s an AWESOME exercise. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m going to use that in my MBA class tomorrow! It sounds perfect.

  4. Funniest, yet I can so relate to, comment: I’m learning to respect myself enough to seek to find something to respect in even the most ridiculous human beings.

    I’m scratching my head a lot with this one too…. 🙂 Thanks for the smile!

  5. Karin,

    These are challenging situations and take extra effort to keep the working relationships working. In developing these challenging relationships, keeping focused on the purpose-filled outcomes is a must. Being civil in all is necessary. Being mindful of our reactions is essential. We must remember to breathe, focus, and smile.

    At some point, however, life needs to move on, and it may mean moving on to other organizations and a better culture.

    Thanks for addressing a tough, real topic.


    • Thanks so much Jon. That’s a really important way to think about it. Keeping an eye on purpose is so key. And you are so right, at some point we all have choices to stay or go.

  6. Perfect timing…I needed to hear this today!

    I am so tempted to tell someone what I really think about them, and in the process a few explicatives would come out 🙁 Your post reminded me to take the high road…

    As they say, “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies even closer.”

    • LaRae, Wow… sounds like a great story. Sorry to hear you’re dealing with all that.

  7. I like the question.

    I rarely have this thought. When I do, I ask, what this thought says about me? Or, what can I learn from them.

    Propinquity. I had a hard time saying it let alone knowing what it meant. Looked it up. I like the word.

    • Steve,
      Thanks. I learned the word “propinquity” in high school when my high school church youth director tried to convince me that I was in love with my boyfriend only because of “propinquity” meaning that we went to the same school. Ridiculous. It was first love. But we did both move on, but got to keep the word 😉

  8. What a struggle we can all relate to! Good ideas here. Like you suggest, I’ve advised people to let that person they can’t stand in… all the poking around is sometimes because the door is closed and they want in. Not always easy but sometimes the best path to take.

    • Alli, Love your imagery here. So agree, often there wacky behavior is a strange way of expressing the need for inclusion. Thank you.

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