The Critical Factor in Relationship Success

There is one factor that will make or break a connection in both personal and professional relationships. Also, the degree that this factor exists determine how well you can cooperate, resolve conflict, and trust each other. The critical factor in relationship success… RESPECT.

In a study of 838,151 people in 158 countries, whether or not a person was treated with respect was the strongest predictor of positive feelings. When it comes to happiness, feeling respected beats out the other factors, including money.

In a Georgetown University study done with 20,000 employees around the world, being treated with respect by the boss was ranked as most important, even above recognition, appreciation, and being offered opportunities for growth. Although giving good feedback and listening with empathy are common skills taught in leadership classes, they are rarely combined with the art of conveying respect. Yet respect is the critical factor for increasing engagement, focus, and prioritization, which have a direct effect on results.

Saying and doing things in a way that instills a feeling of respect is critical to ensure people live and work well together.

Unfortunately, over half the participants in the Georgetown study said they don’t feel respected by their leaders. The level of respect people feel from their peers impacts their ability to give their best as well. A disrespectful work environment affects health, well-being, and results.

The Georgetown study found, “Even witnessing incivility makes people less attentive to information and worse at solving puzzles.”

Hopefully, people go home to respectful relationships. Yet when you take home the pressures of work, you might become irritable, self-centered, and defensive. You may snap at and insult the ones you love. The unhappier you are, the more disrespectful you will be.

Disrespect is slow poison for any relationship.

What is respect?

Respect does not necessarily mean you admire or revere someone, but that you appreciate, value, and acknowledge the innate worth of the individual so he or she feels whole and worthwhile in your presence. You help the person feel confident that his voice counts, that her ideas are important, and his opinions are significant even if you don’t agree. The person is an intelligent being doing her best with what she has learned in this lifetime. You appreciate your time together no matter how long or short your time is together.

How do you feel respect?

Respect is two-way. Both people must feel each other is an intelligent, creative, and important individual to establish a respectful relationship. To feel this, you must:

  • Release the needs to be right, to be admired, or to be in control. When you feel the urge to explain yourself more than once, let it go. When you think you know exactly what is wrong with the other person’s thinking and what he or she should do next, be curious and ask questions instead of expressing your judgment. No one likes being made to feel wrong or stupid. Once you remove these needs, you open the space for mutual respect.
  • Be sincere. The mirror neurons in the brain help us sense someone’s unspoken intentions and emotion, giving us natural “BS radars.” Your emotions and intentions affect how someone interprets the validity of your respect. Don’t just show respect; feel it.
  • Give respect even if you don’t get it. Unless the other person is intentionally trying to psychologically or physically harm you, resist reacting to defensive or rude behavior. Model the behavior you want from them. Find something to appreciate and value about the person you are with regardless of their behavior. Respect can be contagious. Even if someone starts a conversation disrespectfully, you might be amazed how quickly the person shifts their tone when you show respect even when you disagree with their ideas. Don’t let their attitude be more powerful than your respect.
  • Periodically check in with yourself. Monitor your tension level, your emotional state, and your focus. Even in the midst of a high-pressure situation, you can stop and become aware of what you are doing and feeling. Then make a conscious choice to be present to the human you are with. Slow your mind by feeling curious. Then open your heart with warmth, compassion, and gratitude for the opportunity to learn, once again, how to better connect with yourself and others.

Indira Gandhi said, “I suppose that leadership at one time meant muscle, but today it means getting along with people.” Respect is the key ingredient for “getting along.”

Respect is far more important than your words, no matter how helpful, inspirational or enthusiastically expressed. Sincere respect is the most critical determinants of leadership success and relationship strength.

If you would like to have me speak at your upcoming event or talk about leadership training and coaching, please reach to me at:

Marcia Reynolds

tel:+1 602 954 9030
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