Practice Makes Nice
In 2013 Lisa Curtis published an article for Forbes Magazine. At the time, Lisa was the Communications Director for Mosaic, an online marketplace for investing in high-end solar projects. The articles was titled “The Art of Gratitude” and in it, Lisa described how she, a product of the instant gratification generation, needed to learn the fine art of expressing gratitude.
She described how she felt she had already mastered this skill, using a wall calendar in her bedroom to record something great about each day before retiring for the night. She referenced the difficulty in trying to find something positive, just one thing even, about each and every day. She also mentioned the growing body of research (which continues to this very day) that supports the theory that a happier and healthier life can be achieved through finding at least one thing for which to be grateful each day.
We seldom think about the concept of retrospection having anything to do with the word “respect”. Its history or etymology dates back to the Latin “respectus” which translates as “looking back”. The more modern definition dates back to the late sixteenth century. It was probably the result of someone’s retrospection and consideration of another’s past behavior but somewhere around the late 1580’s, the word came to mean a feeling of regard or esteem based upon the actions or attributes of a person.
The term respect is a subject of great debate among philosophers and psychologists. Is a teen driver respecting the speed limit the same as respecting his/her parents? Surely one is not exactly the same as another. Most agree that how we respect ourselves often determines the lives we lead and the choices we make. Could how and what for which we are thankful do the same?
It is most important to have self-respect but it is also important to respect others. The relationships we have in this world revolve around the respect we show others and how we live is based upon the respect we have for ourselves. Gratitude is a part of respecting others. In other words, the kindness we live towards ourselves is mirrored in the kindness with which we treat others. The person who dislikes him or herself will probably be equally as critical to those around them and being critical does not take one down a path populated with friends.
One of the first steps for respecting others and ourselves involves losing assumptions. When we let life teach us rather than assuming we have all the answers or know what another is thinking, then we open ourselves up to being free and create opportunities to learn. Sometimes the greatest way to be kind is to let the person be uniquely themselves without insisting they conform to our own ideas or standards. The lack of assumption usually leads to a heightened sense of dignity. When we let people be themselves, we give that which they are dignity. Feeling that you are dignity is the foundation for a healthy self-esteem, both in us and in others.
When we show dignity to another we are also usually being fair. Injustices occur every day based upon someone’s assumptions and more times than not, those assumptions are flawed and faulty. Letting go of assumptions also means fairness will rule the day. Taking the time to treat everyone equally and meet out the same justice to all, regardless of their position, race, creed, financial status, etc. results in a better social personality. Such fairness and dignity extended to all comes under the heading of good manners and correct etiquette. The use of derogatory language is again based upon flawed and ignorant assumptions which lead to discrimination. No one feels dignified or respected if they are the victim of discrimination.
Consideration is also a part of good manners as is punctuality. Sometimes we think our time schedule is the most important in the world. Insisting others follow our schedule is permissible every now and then. It is not respectful to make everyone dance to our own tune and nothing else. Letting people explain themselves is also a great kindness. When we listen to others, truly listen to them, we are giving them our attention, our time, and letting them know they are valued.
Life coach Steve Maraboli explains it this way: ““How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.” Respect is a two-way street. It is a gift we give ourselves whenever we look back and give respect to another.
In her article, Lisa Curtis mentions an employee complaining about her to management. This was an employee for whom Lisa had served as a mentor. Suddenly the person who thought she was easy to work with was being told someone did not like working for and with her. Though her department’s productivity level was high, Lisa realized she had forgotten one very important aspect, not only of managing people but in being a person herself. She had forgotten to show gratitude.
Now, Lisa Curtis revealed in that 2013 article, she has a new bedtime habit. She not only records great moments of her day, she also records when a colleague or friend has done something nice. She also made a new goal for herself to express gratitude to at least two people every week.
Giving someone respect, honoring the dignity of who they are, and expressing gratitude to them really costs a person nothing except a few moments of his/her time. Most of us on Facebook spend at least an hour every day online, clicking the like button for a variety of things. We need to “like”, wrote Lisa Curtis, in showing gratitude to others and I completely agree. A simple “thank you” can make someone’s ordinary time extraordinary.