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The Respectful Leader by Walter G. Meyer, Gregg Ward

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A Deeper Dive into Respect and Disrespect

The Two Types of Respect/Disrespect

Most people aren’t aware that there are actually two types of respect. We call them instant and developed.

Instant respect (or instant disrespect) is an unconscious, instinctual reaction that usually occurs just a few milliseconds after coming into face-to-face contact with someone we’ve never met before.

This instant respect/disrespect reaction is almost always based on visible cues such as gender, race, ethnicity, age/generation, clothing (its condition and how its worn), facial expressions, body type and size, hair style, piercings, tattoos, and so on. Also, we might sense someone’s energy level and mood when we first meet him or her or hear something in his or her voice, such as an accent or tone. Some or all of these cues will then almost instantly combine in our brains to trigger previously developed positive/negative biases within each of us, which then lead to an instant respect or disrespect reaction.

Here’s an example of how this unconscious mechanism works. Imagine you’re attending a public outdoor event—such as a street fair—filled with people milling around, visiting food stalls, listening to live music, buying gifts, etc. Now, imagine walking past a police officer in uniform who is calmly standing off to one side, smiling at everyone while observing the crowd. It’s likely that, even if you don’t know them personally, you would have an instant respect reaction to this police officer, ...

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