Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How to Transform Conflict and Gain Respect

Become a respected leader by learning to turn the other cheek.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Wouldn't it be a different world if everybody behaved in a way that is to your liking? Unfortunately, people's responses can often be anger, resentment, dissent or sarcasm. That can feel like a slap in the face, with your first response being to retaliate. At first glance, the very idea of simply "turning the other cheek" can seem weak, pathetic and ineffective, not to mention unnatural. But if you take a more insightful look, turning the other cheek can offer a powerful, effective and masterful response.


When someone lashes out, hold steady within yourself. It's not a good time for a knee-jerk reaction. Your quiet demeanor is often enough to hold up a mirror for the other person to see their own behavior. As a result, they are inclined to respond more maturely, while also gaining respect for you. Your mature stance can win the confrontation before it even starts. Turning the other cheek then, is far from passive or flimsy but is instead, powerful and authoritative.

Related: Managing Conflict Is Essential to Success

The other day, I walked up to one of my team members with a simple question. He barked back, clearly in a frustrated state. I was tempted to respond in kind to let him know it is not okay to talk to me that way. Realizing that would just inflame the situation, I simply asked, "Is something wrong?"

He barked back again, "No, nothin's wrong! I'm fine!"

I respectfully nodded, turned around and quietly walked away. In doing so, I accomplished several things. First, I avoided confrontation. Such confrontations can take a long time to heal at significant expense emotionally, psychologically and financially. Second, I gained his respect in that moment. And lastly, he was given the opportunity to observe his behavior and aspire to more appropriate behavior in the future.

Sometimes turning the other cheek is misunderstood to mean some sort of unrealistic, fanciful notion of lofty behavior. A more pragmatic relationship with the phrase becomes an excellent and useful real-world approach to managing not only the anger of others, but also your own.

Related Book: No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits by Dan S. Kennedy

It's quite normal and understandable to want to lash back when we get "slapped" in the face. At first glance, the idea of just taking it can seem horribly offensive. The inclination is to stand up and defend yourself. In actuality, "taking a punch" lends itself to a sweeter victory in the long run. You will find the shift in the other person's eyes and demeanor to be immensely gratifying. It may be immediate or transpire over time, but it will happen. When people act out, deep inside they know better. They may not be able to acknowledge it immediately but, given the opportunity, they will eventually come around.

If you respond from your reactionary anger, you lower your position in the organization. You also don't feel good about yourself afterwards. You manage your anger by not acting out the first response to punch back, but by simply taking their punch and finding a mature and dignified way to respond. Your anger is more than satisfied with the amount of honor, stature and self-respect you gain as a result.

By handling yourself wisely in such situations, you take on a position of authority. People will look up to you. Gaining respect is simpler than people think. It's not accomplished through overt aggression or dominance. Respect is something we gain by touching the reflective and wise qualities that lie deep within every individual. Even though power is often thought of as an aggressive, fiery energy, true power lies in respect. Learning to turn the other cheek can be a compelling first step in becoming a true leader and a powerful, respected individual in the marketplace.

Related: The 10 Benefits of Conflict

When somebody's name comes up, we have an immediate, visceral response. This rarely has much to do with their accomplishments or how smart they are. It has much more to do with how we feel about the person as a human being. Even major corporate decisions about who will be promoted -- and who won't -- are often based upon this criterion. If you really want to be successful in business, when your name comes up, the immediate response that you want to elicit from people is "Oh, he/she is a really great person to work with!" A mature and rational relationship with turning the other cheek is critical to attaining this level of honor.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks