Guest AuthorKhyati Gupta Babbar

Communicate Respect in the Workplace

By | Khyati Gupta Babbar | Santulan Behavioural Sciences

What happens when we feel respected by someone?



It makes us feel:

  • Valued and special.
  • Accomplished, if we’re being respected for our skills.
  • Happy because we’re social animals who want to know that we’re being valued by our peers.

Since these positive feelings get aroused in our body, we have an inclination to work with people that we respect. The reverse also holds true. When our respect for others is adequately communicated to them we can:

  • Influence more people
  • Get a greater job satisfaction
  • Improve our team’s morale in day to day work life
  • Engage more productively in problem resolution
  • Become a better team player
  • Get more traction for our ideas
  • Build trust based relationships with clients

What is Respect?

“A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”

“Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.”

How can we show and receive respect in the workplace?

We don’t have to necessarily verbalize that we respect someone. Our body language is a definite way of showing respect. Read on to know more:


Fronting is when we align our top, torso and toes towards another person.

We use it when we want to give our full attention and show our non-verbal respect towards them. We can use it in various situations:

Building Rapport:  At your annual conference you’re meeting colleagues from across the country. This is a rare opportunity to bond with people and make new connections. One important ingredient of being able to do that is showing them that you respect them and their time. In an environment like that where there are so many things wanting everyone’s attention – colleagues passing by, food, music, announcements etc., what do you do? When you’re speaking with someone, align your top, torso and toes completely towards them. This will give them the non-verbal cue that you respect them and that is why all your attention is theirs.

Excusing From Conversations : How do you excuse yourself without being disrespectful? Slowly disengage from fronting. Turn your torso and toes towards the exit or towards the food area. This would give them a cue that you need to leave. Most likely, they will ask you! If not, then do any of the following to make a graceful exit:

Talk About Future: Ask them if they have any plans this weekend or their plans after the event. For example:

“I’m going swimming classes with my son after this.”

“Have fun at swimming. It’s amazing weather to go swimming today. I’ll catch you soon”

Follow-up Action: Talk about how you will resume sometime in the future

‘We should discuss your views on the recent changes in the firm over coffee sometime. I will ping you to plan something”

This gives them a cue that you want to end the conversation now. This is very respectful and no one feel awkward. Similarly if you notice them turning towards the food or exit, its your cue to understand their desire to exit.


Have you ever come across people who don’t look at you while talking? Instead:

  • They look into their phones
  • They look above you
  • Their eyes keep moving looking at the passers by

It’s a sure shot way of making a person feel unimportant.

Maintain eye contact for 60-70% of the times. If it’s anything less than that the other person might think you’re not interested and if it’s any more than that you may come across as creepy.


You’ve just been told that your recent client acquisition bid has been successful. You’re jumping with joy from within. You rush to your best friend colleague with this exciting news and he responds with a low energy“Congratulations. I’m so happy for you”. Where does that leave you?

Mirroring another person’s energy and pace is a robust way of showing respect.  When someone shares a good news with you give a genuine smile, match their tone and participate in their excitement.


It’s important to understand your own need for space and others’ need for space so that you can use it respectfully to build relationships. There are four different kinds of space zones:

Intimate Zone

Personal Zone

Social Zone

Public Zone

Observe how much space they usually keep while talking with others. This will give you a cue on their need for space.

If you notice that someone moves back when talking to you – respect that distance. It’ll be a huge relief for their brain that you’ve noticed it and that you’re respecting that.


In a busy conference room where everyone is looking for a chance to speak how do you get to speak without sounding aggressive or rude? Before you start speaking, show non-verbally that you want to speak. This will give a cue to the current speaker to pass on the ‘baton’ to you. You can raise your hand just a little bit – not the full-fledged school version :). And within seconds, you’ll notice that the speaker starts winding up and lets you speak.


If the person that you’re speaking with is looking into the phone, stop speaking and politely say “I will wait for you to finish.” This is a respectful and effective way to send out your message.

But what if, you’re the listener and you really need to look into your phone? The solution is simple. Verbalize it. You can say “I need to check an important mail. Can you give me a minute?”  or “I need to take notes of our meeting on my phone sticky notes. I hope you don’t mind if I look into my phone in between.”

And how can you make the other person put their phone on silent? When you start your meeting say out loud “Let me put my phone on silent so that we can focus on the conversation fully”. This will encourage the other person to do the same. Do take out your phone, and put it face down on the table so that non-verbally you tell the other person that all your attention is theirs.


Your skills and talents are your primary source of garnering respect from your environment. But what will up your game is how you talk about others. This brings us to the Spontaneous Trait Transference theory proposed by J.J Skowronski and his colleauges at Department of Psychology, Ohio State University.

Spontaneous trait transference occurs when communicators are perceived as possessing the very traits they describe in others.

What you say about another person is how you are perceived subconsciously. While at coffee with a colleague you say “Reena is so lazy.” This person will subconsciously think that you are lazy.

To be more respect worthy, watch the adjectives that you use for others.

What Next?

Before reading this post did you actively think about respect in your everyday work life?  We need to bring this to the front of our minds.

Respect is a two-way street. When you show it to someone it improves your chances of getting it back.

Republished with permission and originally published at Khyati Gupta Babbar’s Linkedin 

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