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Here's How to Gain Respect Instead of Making an Enemy

Don't allow negative feelings to ruin relationships in business and life.
Here's How to Gain Respect Instead of Making an Enemy
Image credit: Sam Edwards | Getty Images

Most people have a role model in one form or another. For me, it was my great uncle on my father's side. Born in Greece, he came to America at the age of 14, unable to speak a word of English. He was not formally educated. But by reading a lot, he was quite knowledgeable, refined and, above all else, very wise. When I was a child, he told me, "Any fool can make an enemy. It takes a wise person to make a friend." It's a simple notion, yet one very few master.

Throughout life, we all frequently feel wronged. We may feel criticized, neglected, devalued, insulted, pushed aside or cheated, just to name a few. The common denominator in all these feelings is hurt. We react to that hurt in many different ways -- anger, resentment, lashing out, passive-aggressive words or actions, gossip or emotional collapse. Yet, none of these reactions are constructive. Instead, we make enemies and usually inflame and perpetuate the situation. So, how do we turn it around and make friends and/or gain the respect of the person who hurt us? How do we master hurtful situations?

Related: Begging For a Return to Respectful Communications

Admittedly, such mastery is usually not easy. In fact, we tend to hold onto these negative feelings, believing that we were right, and the offender wronged us and deserves retribution. At first glance, we may think mastery of the situation involves changing or denying our negative feelings toward the perpetrator. Though that would be nice, in the real world it amounts to denial -- suppression of what we're really feeling. Such suppression is not healthy. Allowing these emotions to build inside is not only damaging to our health but, sooner or later, it will erupt in a detrimental manner. So, mastery of the situation involves not denial, but wise management of these feelings.

When there is tension between you and another, you may not even be on speaking terms. In such a situation, a polite nod and perhaps a "Hey, how are you doing?" may be all it takes to open the pathway to a higher level of interaction. In such a situation, we don't worry about their response. They may feel the need to throw a dart, but just go about your business, knowing that deep inside they are not pleased with their poor behavior. The next time you see them, just carry yourself with an air of courtesy, perhaps offering a kind word or nod without being too attached to their response.

Related: 8 Effortless Ways to Make Kindness Part of Every Day

Keep in mind, there is no need to win the argument. That's generally fool's play. What you really want to do is to win their respect. You do that through mature behavior.

Resistance to overcoming our own resentment comes in several forms. We may replay the situation which triggered us over and over in our head. Or it might even be a sentence the other person said that we can't let go of. We may paint a picture of the person as a nasty, vile creature and hold that image in our mind. However we do it, we would do well to identify what exactly it is. Then, it might help us to assign an age to the emotion we feel. Is it that of a three-year-old child or a rebellious teenager, for instance? We mature our feelings by identifying and naming them. Once that's done, we can see beyond them and thereby mature our handling of different situations.

In some circumstances, we might not feel resentment, or we might be able to work with our feelings to the point where we are able to understand and have compassion for the other person. In such instances, we immediately diffuse the conflict. Then, over time, the other person usually comes around.

Related: 7 Steps for Keeping Conflict Healthy

So, a key to not making enemies and instead having friends and people who respect you is this -- don't deny any negative feelings you have and, at the same time, don't allow these negative feelings to run your life. If we want to think of it in terms of defeating our enemies, the best way to do that is to behave in a mature and respectful manner. This way, their negativity has nowhere to go. I'm not saying that we are always capable of getting over our resentments, but this is a "how to" for mastering such situations. The first time is the hardest but, after seeing how well it works, it becomes easier the next time. After living in this manner for a period of time, we gain a level of self-respect and self-satisfaction that perpetuates more mature behavior.