5 behaviors that immediately make people respect you when you first meet them

You don’t have to know someone to respect them.

For example, here’s what one fan shared about what they respect about Academy Award-winning actor Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody):

“I admire him because he’s an amazing actor and a very beautiful, humble, and down-to-earth person,” they said. 

“He’s vocal about how actors of Middle Eastern descent deserve more accurate portrayal in the industry, and how much respect he has for his Egyptian heritage.”

The fan continued:

“He fights for causes such as the AIDS crisis and the International Rescue Committee, which helps save the lives of people from Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. He’s also grateful for his fans, friends, and family for getting him where he is today, and [he’s] respectful and kind with his co-stars.”

I don’t believe you have to be famous for your reputation to precede you. People also don’t have to know you personally to respect you.

You might exhibit behaviors that compel people to respect you right off the bat—even if it’s the first time you encounter them. 

Here are five behaviors that can immediately make people respect you when you first meet them. 

1) You have a gracefulness that gets you noticed 

People who have a gracefulness about them move with a kind of control, flow, and smoothness that is attractive to watch. 

Notice how I said “controlled”? 

Being graceful isn’t just about being light on your feet like, say, a ballerina.

It’s about a lot more than that. 

Graceful people tend to do everything with intention. It’s in the way they walk, talk, carry themselves. It’s even in their posture. 

Graceful people have elegance, poise, and balance.

They’re very well put together: you’ll never see them in track pants in public for example, or with messy hair. 

They tend to get noticed easily and people are often in awe of them. 

A graceful person is also someone who is unruffled; there’s an inner calmness about them. They are also someone who can deal with trials and tribulations without breaking step, says acclaimed UK social worker, Neil Thompson

“This can be a distinct advantage in relating to other people,” he says. “It can help put them at ease.”

We might think of gracefulness as something only the lucky few are born with. 

Thompson says nothing could be further from the truth. 

“In reality, it is a skill—or a set of behavioral skills—that can be developed over time. There is no reason why people cannot learn to develop poise and grace if they are prepared to make the effort and to develop the self-awareness involved.”

Thompson believes that being graceful is actually a matter of values. “It’s about committing ourselves to a value position that involves being respectful, treating people with dignity and thereby being a decent and honorable person.”

Now that’s what I would call worthy of respect. 

2) People pick up on your dignified disposition 

People who are dignified have healthy self-esteem; they also possess a strong sense of self-identity and are both proud and at peace with who they are. 

They are very cognizant of treating people how they themselves want to be treated. 

That’s because dignified people have a respect for humanity that includes treating everyone with kindness, compassion, and fairness no matter what their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or any other factor, says the team at Psychologs Magazine.

“It’s just recognizing one’s inherent worth and value. For example, a doctor treats homeless kids with the same care he treats his wealthy patients. Another example of this can be a community member standing against harassment or disrespect.”

People who are dignified are honorable and show great self-respect and respect for others. 

But that doesn’t mean that “bad” things don’t happen to them. 

It means that they hold and handle themselves very well in difficult situations. 

For example, say you have some sort of public embarrassment of some kind. Maybe someone knocked you over as you were walking down the street minding your own business. 

Instead of lashing out at them, cursing and calling them names, you decide not to break down and simply get on with your day as best as you can. 

Passersby would no doubt help you up and ask if you’re okay. They would see the person who knocked you over as callous, horribly-mannered, abs out of control. 

You might have been the one who was knocked down, but the way you handled the situation leaves your dignity intact and perhaps even pushed it up a notch. 

3) You also have an air of charisma about you

Similar to the above, people worthy of respect tend to have a “je ne sais quoi” quality and charisma about them. 

Their charismatic nature inspires respect and respect because their self-worth appears strong, even at times they don’t necessarily feel that way about themselves. 

Charismatic people are respected because they have faith in their abilities, their knowledge, and their worth, says Kevin Daum from Inc. 500.

“They also know the line between confidence and narcissism. They don’t disparage or dismiss the people around them.”

The thing about charismatic people (and the quality that compels people to respect you) is that you feel their presence and their energy the moment they enter the room. 

“It’s not just that someone is likable. Charismatic people draw attention,” says Daum. “They automatically energize you and motivate you to step up, to take action…Charismatic people inspire us and get us talking.”

I remember interviewing former CNN television anchor Brooke Baldwin some years ago. She talked about how one of her most inspiring interviews was with iconic American designer Diane von Furstenberg (also known by her moniker, DVF). 

Baldwin wasn’t in awe of DVF simply because she was a famous designer who invented the “Wrap Dress” and inspired a sartorial feminist movement. 

Baldwin told me she respected the designer most of all for the question that DVF asked her during the interview. The question: “What is your platform? What are you most passionate about? Are you truly living that passion and purpose? How does your passion help the world?”

Baldwin told me that DVF’s line of questioning compelled her to think long and hard about if she indeed was living her most authentic life

She realized she wasn’t.

A chain of events after that interview led Baldwin to write a book about women who had banded together to instigate profound change in their respective fields. 

It also inspired her to leave CNN and reflect on what the next chapter of her life would look like. 

You gotta respect someone who can inspire you to change your whole life around. 

4) You exude kindness and empathy to everyone you meet 

People who respect others are often respected by others, themselves. 

That’s because they tend to have an emotional intelligence; they have the ability to sense other people’s emotions, and are able to imagine what other people might be thinking or feeling. 

When you communicate genuine empathy it allows the other person to feel respected, accepted, and understood, says the team at VetSet2Go, an educational platform based out of Australia. 

“Empathy is the key to establishing both trust and respect, which can be defined as showing due regard for the feelings, needs, and rights of others.”

Empathy can be as small as taking the trouble to remember people’s names. It can be something like giving people your full attention in meetings. It can also mean being there for someone who has lost a loved one. 

5) People pick up on how competent you are

People who are competent have a way of commanding respect from others. 

It could be your charming way of starting small talk with someone you don’t know, your engaging conversation skills, or the way you are able to come up with solutions to a problem at work, for example. 

Being competent also means being on time and never missing a deadline. 

Competent people are connectors, which is a big reason they’re worthy of respect, says Erin Greenawald from The Muse.

At work it might look like connecting with someone at another company who may be able to help with a problem that your boss or co-worker is facing, for example. Or you might introduce a friend who would make a great sales lead.

“Doing this shows that you have an impressive network—but also that you’re willing to share it in order to help others,” says Greenawald. 

People who are respected also tend to ask more questions and remain open to new ideas. In other words, they don’t have an arrogance or ego about them. 

People don’t like or respect know-it-alls, says Terina Allen from Forbes

“If you go around diminishing others while acting like you have a monopoly on bright ideas, the best expertise or the best solutions, you will be disliked,” she says. 

“People will respect you less because they don’t feel you value their ideas or expertise.”

People who are respected often show people—even those that they don’t know—that they are open to learning new things and don’t mind being proven wrong. 

Respect will get you further than by “touting your expertise, college degrees, or how much experience you have.”

To quote Aretha Franklin: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me…”

I follow Lolly Daskal on “X”. Daskal is one of the most sought-after leadership coaches in the world. Here is her hack to getting respect right off the bat:

“Remember basic kindness.

Encourage others.

Stand firm in your convictions.

Play fair and play smart.

Extend a helping hand.

Cause no harm.

Think before you speak.”

Put these into play and you’ll be golden. 

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