Respecting People


Your reputation is critical because people talk about you in your absence.

Good reputations are maintained by honoring and setting healthy boundaries.

Good boundaries are tactful (i.e., behaving inoffensively).

Tactfulness is the art of honoring many, many, many small social rules.

The only way to be tactful is with high emotional intelligence (i.e., knowing how others feel), which can be learned.

Who cares about reputation?

Your reputation will precede you, since people talk about you in your absence:
  • Reputation is power earned through trust, so the best reputation is that people can depend on you.
  • If you maintain good boundaries over time, you’ll build a great reputation.
  • A relatively unintelligent person who is courteous will often succeed far more than a genius who’s insufferable to be around.

We all need good boundaries:
  • Boundaries are emotional and physical spaces between you and others.
  • Boundaries create the framework for all healthy communication.
  • Boundaries aren’t selfish or disobedient, but they are self-preserving.
  • Boundaries are the only way to protect everyone from harm.

Setting boundaries benefits everyone

Good boundaries fulfill our urges for safety and comfort, which is necessary for human connection:
  • Each person clarifies where they begin and other people end.
  • Everyone specifies exactly where other people can’t cross, and other people respond appropriately.
  • Everyone is free to think and feel anything without judgment, condemnation or unhealthy peer pressure.
  • Everyone can act freely up until they start impeding others’ ability to act.

While it’s counter-intuitive, good boundaries give everyone more freedom:
  • Because everyone in a relationship is protected, that relationship can easily persist long-term.
  • When people rely on others for a mutual benefit instead of necessity, they’re interdependent.
  • Interdependence opens people up to be creative and original.

Bad boundaries damage relationships

Every single conflict or social issue comes through improper boundaries:
  • Can’t say “no” (Compliant) – feel too guilty or controlled to assert self, letting others abuse us.
  • Can’t say “yes” (Unresponsive) – too afraid to accept vulnerabilities or weaknesses, distancing ourselves from others.
  • Can’t hear “no” (Controller) – refuses to observe/respect others’ boundaries, and eventually abuse others.
  • Can’t hear “yes” (Avoidant) – unwilling to connect with others, and isolating ourselves from our social needs.

Poor boundaries maladapt our self-worth and distort our view of others:
  • No sense of personal identity.
  • Our feelings and thoughts over-conform to others’ standards and seem inauthentic.
  • Unnecessary, alienating autonomy.
  • Inappropriately trusting others’ promises.
  • Failing to understand human behavior.
  • Believing that nothing thought, felt or done is private or personal.
  • Expectations that people must report every feeling, reaction, opinion, relationship, and outside activity.
  • Withdrawn or over-controlling behavior that conceals feelings to others and self.
  • Intentions to stay unseen or unheard to prevent future boundary violations.
  • “Blanking out” when stressed.
  • Feelings of others physically or emotionally violating unspoken rules or boundaries.
  • Deconstructive and discouraging self-talk.
  • Selective amnesia and feelings of detachment about the past.
  • Guilt and shame without any rational explanation why.
  • Cold, distant attitude toward others who may violate boundaries.
  • Harsh defensive or offensive behavior to protect personal space.
  • Holding others to unenforceable rules or promising impossible consequences.
  • Insists that everyone is completely independent from everyone else.
  • Unable to share a common purpose, goal, identity or rationale.
  • Anger bleeding over from unrelated incidents.
  • Sense of justice in violating others’ rights.
  • Has an attitude that “dares” others to come close or cross their boundaries.
  • Insecure from feeling ignored, invalidated or rejected in the past.
  • Intimacy feels like violating boundaries.
  • Tries to reject others before they can reject them first.
  • Small failings are justification for permanent rejection.
  • Treats self as a victim justified toward hyper-defensive behavior to fight further violations.
  • Seeks martyrdom to fulfill purpose for a prolonged victimhood.

Two or more people with bad boundaries make strange relationships:
  • Members shun or shame creativity.
  • We become over-dependent and over-involved in others’ needs and interests, which becomes abuse when pushed far enough.
  • People feel violated, used, overwhelmed, strangled, smothered or imprisoned.
  • Activities are only with others, without any solo tasks.
  • Everyone is required to feel, act, and think the same way.

Healthy relationships require mutually healthy attitudes

You don’t really need to be “nice” if it’s not your personality, but being respectful is absolutely critical to coexist with others.

Healthy boundaries are reasonable and adapt as the situation changes.

Boundaries must be kindly expressed as public information.

Everyone is solely responsible for themselves:
  • Everyone is responsible for their feelings and thoughts.
  • Everyone is free to make decisions, including wrong ones.
  • Everyone should receive all consequences for their actions because it was their decision.
  • If someone makes a good decision, they’re free to reap the rewards without condemnation.
  • If someone makes a bad decision, others can choose to help but aren’t required to.
  • If anyone compares anyone to someone else, they’re never entirely accurate.

Everyone is responsible to correctly handle their failures:
  1. Confess their inability, failings, and wrongdoing.
  2. Submit their failures to God and others.
  3. Turn from their bad behaviors.
  4. Ask others for help when they need it.
  5. Make amends to others whenever possible.

Each person must act with the right motivation:
  • Everyone should consider the consequences of their decisions.
  • Everyone should communicate with everyone affected by a decision.

Healthy boundaries foster worthwhile habits and behaviors:
  • Accepting personal responsibility and building self-control.
  • Tempering survivalist and destructive thinking.
  • Taking risks and overcoming fears.
  • Managing insecurity and fears of rejection.
  • Appropriately expressing vulnerability and building trust.
  • Supporting a healing environment and encouraging intimacy.
  • Eliminating manipulation, the abuse of power, and any obsession with control.
  • Getting rid of over-dependency and victim or martyr roles.
  • Improving assertive behavior and removing passive-aggressiveness.
  • Setting relationship goals with others.
  • Handling conflict and confrontation.
  • Forgiving and forgetting.
  • Removing guilt and shame.

How to set healthy boundaries

A. Identify symptoms of past or present violated/ignored boundaries:
  1. Identify which of the symptoms are current or past-tense.
  2. Write down details in a journal about the triggers for those behaviors.
  3. Give details about how those symptoms affect the present.
  4. Describe how you feel about the symptom’s effect on your life.

B. Understand what caused the boundary violations:
  1. Track any irrational or unhealthy thoughts leading to the boundary violation.
  2. Trace which beliefs drive those thoughts.

C. Replace the unhealthy thoughts with better ones:
  1. Find more reasonable thoughts, affirmations and beliefs which encourage habits that respect yourself and others more.

We cycle roughly through stages as we learn good boundaries:
  1. Resentment, frustration or anger at the various recurring violations as we discover them.
  2. Finding role models for new behaviors we want to model.
  3. Connecting with others who also love good boundaries.
  4. Learning love for ourselves and gratitude for blessings.
  5. Saying “no” in small ways in a nurturing environment.
  6. Finding happiness as we bypass former feelings of guilt.
  7. Saying “no” on larger things with difficult people or a legitimate risk.
  8. Realigning our conscience to the new standard.
  9. Respecting others’ views and boundaries as much as ourselves.
  10. Instinctively aligning our boundaries to goals by saying “no” when unsure and “yes” when it’s called for.

Good boundaries are tactful

Tact is behaving inoffensively:
  • Avoiding offense requires honoring norms and sharing empathy for others.
  • Everyone has a fragile ego, though most people learn defenses to protect it.
  • We respect others’ hurt to the degree we feel it, which is often how we connect and build relationships.

The Golden Rule is “treat others the way you want to be treated”, but empathy is more than that:
  • The Platinum Rule is “treat others the way they want to be treated”.
  • While sympathy identifies others’ experiences, empathy can identify their feelings and thoughts.
  • Try to understand their background and see their point of view.
  • Deliver authentic praise and avoid input that doesn’t help.
  • Never say clichés like “everything happens for a reason” or “this will pass”.
  • Only expect from others what they can legitimately do.

Giving empathy isn’t difficult to understand, but is uncomfortably open:
  • We must use feelings to interpret what other people are thinking instead of merely our expectations, which becomes more difficult the more that we know.
  • Sharing feelings requires vulnerability.
  • We often become accustomed to distrust if we weren’t raised in it, and it’s not easy to break from it.
  • Empathy usually requires patience to hold your thoughts and slow your speaking until you know the exact words to express meaningful and relevant feelings.

Tact honors many, many small rules

Your attitude is more important than your conduct:
  • Promptly responding is a sign of respect, and people will forgive a cultural failing if they know you’re trying to respect them.
  • Usually, people are vaguely aware of your background from their first impression of you.
    • If you honor their customs but they insist on what you’re familiar with, use them even if they do it poorly.
    • If they instruct you about their methods, oblige and graciously thank them.
  • Generally, you’re safe if you can match the body language, speaking style, mannerisms, and posture of others around you with a similar social position
  • Learn to give plenty of affirming, inoffensive compliments to people when they’re there and not there.
  • There’s no way to kindly communicate that you already know something, so simply say “thank you” and move on.

Give many affordances for others:
  • People need to know when they’re free to interject or respond.
  • Frequently give them silence at the end of your complete idea.
  • Provide simple questions throughout the conversation, and adapt the flow of the discussion to their answers.
  • The conversation will go many places, so if you have lots of things to say you’ll probably only say about 10% of them.

Research what you don’t know:
  • There are many, many social rules to watch for, and you won’t know all of them without lots of experience.
  • Search the internet for advice.
  • Ask friends familiar with the culture.
  • Be careful, though, since asking strangers about appropriate behavior is sometimes taboo as well.

Strive for high emotional intelligence

The 3 types of intelligence are IQ, RQ, and EQ:
  • IQ is the Intelligence Quotient, which is raw thinking speed.
  • RQ is Reality Quotient, which is the ability to link what we understand to reality.
  • EQ is Emotional Quotient, which balances the rational and emotional sides of the mind.

EQ is, by far, the strongest determination of success:
  • EQ helps us understand body language, read others, and visualize how others feel.
  • EQ starts with awareness of feelings, but uses the best way to respond to them with empathy, self-confidence, self-control, and social skills.
  • EQ won’t make awkward situations easy, but will make them simple.
  • The beauty of EQ is that it’s much easier to build than IQ.
  • One side-effect of EQ is that people know how to self-discipline and self-regulate as well.

Unlike IQ, people can train EQ through learning certain awareness skills:
  • Maintain constant awareness of feelings in themselves and others.
  • Understand what they’ll likely feel tomorrow.
  • Understand how they and others would feel from imagined events.
  • Grasp the numerous words that describe typical feelings.
  • Observes others’ feelings and openly asks if they’re okay.
  • Understands personal limits on endurance, patience, and time management.
  • Assumes the best possible interpretation of others’ statements.

Low-EQ people are often oblivious how they come across:
  • While facts and information don’t interest people, feelings and passions do.
  • Low EQ causes consistent conflicts with others:
    • Inappropriate reactions to feelings in self and others.
    • Seeking blame instead of understanding events.
    • Consistent impatience and frustration with others and their behaviors.
    • Inability to understand unspoken rules or a group dynamic.
  • People with low EQ tend to share vague concepts inconsistent with what they’re trying to say:
    • “X Group is…” instead of “That person made me feel…”
    • “Why do people…?” instead of “My friend did…”
    • “I think most people want…” instead of “I want…”
  • A low EQ also causes unintended bigotry through prejudiced misstatements that encode in memory.

People with high EQ manage life better:
  • They appropriately express their feelings in face, voice, and body language as well as reading others’ feelings well.
  • They can exercise self-control, delay gratification, have more patience with uncertainty, and tolerate conflict well.
  • Focused inward, they can stop an unhealthy train of thought.
  • They have an easier time an making realistic goals and focusing.
  • When observing, they understand why the feelings arise in themselves and others.

Most influential people, both evil and good, have very high EQ:
  • Because they have an expanded awareness of themselves, they have an easy time with vulnerability, even when nobody else is.
  • They inform or command when someone needs to know what to do or think.
  • High-EQ people confront strong beliefs they know are wrong.
  • They express thoughts or feelings other people had but didn’t know how to share.
  • They let others reflect, discover or learn themselves.
  • Most of them focus others’ confidence on strengths, qualities, and achievements.

EQ isn’t personality/disposition or “being nice”:
  • EQ measures what you’re capable of doing with others, while personality is what you’d prefer to do.
  • EQ isn’t kindness, and is more about understand the time and place for kindness.
  • People with EQ always respect others and recognize their feelings, even when they don’t agree with them or identify what they see as reality.

EQ only comes through authenticity and awareness:

People often have the intuition, even if they don’t have the understanding, to detect others’ authenticity.

  • Authentic communication completely aligns both verbal and nonverbal expressions.
  • Learn to identify and communicate the ideas which are your voice more than anyone else’s.
  • Your authentic self-talk will come through a variety of places:
    • Your fears and what drives them
    • Abnormally good feelings from others’ approval
    • Comfort in decision that don’t require “permission” from others
  • Authentic expression is giving lots grace and respect to both yourself and others.
  • Express legitimate excitement when you approach them.
  • Pay close attention to others’ mood as topics flow in a conversation.

High-EQ people can master social interactions:
  • At a glance, a high-EQ person can read exactly how someone is feeling and why.
  • They can spot the most influential person in a room within seconds of walking into it.
  • Someone can slowly navigate across a room toward the person they want to meet while tactfully dismissing everyone else where they feel valued.
  • Their inner emotional strength will make them so confident that they inspire confidence in others, but they’re also willing to change from others’ actions.
  • They’ll sidestep avoidable arguments, but won’t be afraid of conflicts, especially pertaining to philosophy, religion or politics.

People with high EQ are naturally charming

Charm is how much you can please people.

At their core, everyone wants to be important:
  • An important person is valued by others, though not necessarily liked.
  • A person who feels important is more likely to connect with the people who made them feel it.
  • Charming people will usually respond and change in response to others, as well as do whatever makes people feel valued.
  • They always give credit to others for their accomplishments and ignore their own, often praising that person to their authority figures (e.g., parents, bosses).
  • When in meetings, they honor the speaker even when the meeting is a waste of time.

While there are many relative aspects to charm from culture, there are a few universals:
  • People are interested to hear what they’re saying.
  • People want to see more of that person’s life.
  • Even when they disagree, they find that person entertaining or interesting.
  • They’re usually excellent communicators in writing or speech who exude at least some optimism.
  • They’re almost always confident from past successes they’ve identified with.

Charming people are often more trusting than most:
  • Trust is consistent openness over time.
  • While you don’t need to always trust, you must always look trusting and believe people are capable of behaving responsibly.
  • The Benjamin Franklin Effect: ask others to do small favors for you to build rapport with them.
  • Presume well of other people when you don’t know.
  • Assume that constructive criticism is always well-intended.
  • Give to others, but don’t track what you’ve given.
  • When you receive gifts, don’t criticize or expect ulterior motives.
  • Greet the “unimportant” people who society generally seems to ignore.

Boundaries and tact build connections

By honoring others’ feelings and thoughts, you win influence with them.

Tactfulness comes through high EQ, which you can develop through learning and habits.

If you know how to be tactful, you can start building relationships with others.

This page is Part 3 of People Skills. Part 1 was Why People Skills Matter and Part 2 was Making Yourself Presentable.