1743. Hope, Respect, and Trust — Part II

Mothers, fathers, and other leaders commit one particular flagrant violation that disrupts the process of generating reciprocal respect and mutual influence.

They see a child or employee do something wrong. Instead of focusing on the undesirability of the results, they focus on the offender. Parents often yell and other leaders pointedly say or imply, “Why did you do that? What were you thinking?” They ask or imply, “How could you have been so stupid, dumb, or careless?” Such reactions are common, right? Say, Yes.

Here’s the shocker that such mothers, fathers, and other leaders don’t recognize. Asking such questions immediately shows disrespect for the wrongdoer’s reasoning, judgment, and ability. Only spiteful people try to screw up the things they are supposed to do. Most likely, whatever the offender did was done with no malice aforethought and for reasons they thought appropriate at the time. In short, they’re not as screwed up as the results they produced. They erred, miscalculated, or mistook something they thought would work. In any event, recovery is everything, and they learned how not to do it in the future and probably long before the condemning leader came down on them. Given the time to mull over the result they produced, they feel confident they can figure out how to do it right the next time. (We all learn most effectively by doing something wrong the first time.)

The point is this: Just the process of asking ‘why did you do that’ or words to that effect bring a culprit’s character, reasoning, and judgment into question. It challenges the wrongdoer’s self-respect. In the case of males, it also disrupts his sense of self-admiration and, consequently,weakens his interest in figuring out how to do better the next time. In the case of females, it disfigures their sense of self-importance by unintentionally displeasing someone.

It gets worse in the home. Siblings pick up on parental questioning of a particular child’s repeated mistakes or misbehavior; the child must always explain himself. Siblings carry it into adult life and easily doubt or question why their brother or sister does certain things with what appear to be dubious reasons. They carry parental habits forward long after the parents are gone, which effectively weakens family glue between adult siblings.

Mutual respect and mutual influence are severely weakened by the simple expedient of calling someone’s character, reasoning ability, and judgment into question. The leader may think it’s only a question. Wrongdoers take it far more personal and also as nullifying the confidence and regard in which leader holds them. When wrongdoers see disrespect aimed at them, their trust of the leader wanes ever more rapidly with each incident, and the leader’s effectiveness as an influencer fades.


Filed under Dear daughter

6 responses to “1743. Hope, Respect, and Trust — Part II

  1. Lin

    Sir Guy, I am very interested in the topic of respect because of the history of abuse in my family and trying to do all I can to understand it and stop that cycle.

    Your observation on the ‘why did you…’ question and its effects is spot on. So true. I intend to be very, very cautious with its use with family especially on my little girl.

    I sometimes use this phrase at work when brainstorming or finding a solution as a team. My boss does that too. Usually I ask this as he does to find out what led to this or other conclusion or understand/follow somebody’s reasoning or logic. In most cases we understand that it is not personal but an attempt to have a clearer understanding of the process behind the result or an idea. I guess it also depends on the tone with which the phrase is said and what comes before and after it. Example, why as in blaming tone and why as in curious, wanting to discover more tone of voice. and nature of leading and follow up questions. Or do you think otherwise? (you do say that the leader thinks its only a question…)

    I was also wondering if the word respect had slightly differing meanings for men and women. When a man says he needs to be respected and a woman says this, do they mean the exact same thing?

    Your Highness Lin,

    Re your third paragraph: Yes regarding the tone in your voice. However, a bigger difference lies here. To be curious about another’s judgment is to blame whether before or after the fact. That’s why successful brainstorming is done without immediate feedback to whoever makes a contribution. You and the boss may “understand that it is not personal but an attempt to have a clearer understanding of the process behind the result or an idea.” But you’re probably by yourselves most of the time. As Herman Melville said, “A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” In your case, respect weakens on the job.

    Re your fourth paragraph: Yes, the emphasis and expression of respect varies between the sexes. Women predominantly see respect as verbalized expressions of esteem and cherishment. Men view respect as special consideration of who they are and admiration for what they do, and they believe actions much sooner and more easily than words.


  2. Such great points. I’ve always maintained that one of the best things my mother ever did for us was to absolutely require that we never disrespect one another. I really credit her for the relationship we’re able to have as we’ve gotten older.

    In reflecting on these posts, I’ve also realized that it has been the standard of mutual respect that has enabled my parents and I to weather some difficult family dynamics and get beyond them. But the times when disrespect abounded were times of immense difficulty.

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    What’s a better way to find out without causing the other to feel put-down?

    Your Highness Abella Jucy Arthur,

    Welcome aboard. It’s a great day when another pretty woman joins us on this cruise to WhatWomenNeverHear.

    To find out what? I’m not clear on what you’re after. Please try again.


  4. I’d very pleased if I could find more such good blogs.

    Your Highness Mocne Sinooke,
    Welcome aboard. It’s a great day when another pretty woman joins us on this cruise to WhatWomenNeverHear.

  5. My Husband's Wife

    Thanks for this enlightening article. As you pointed out, criticism a common way (a poor way) in which people relate to each other–it’s just passed on from one family to another. It’s as if the critical person is taking way too much offense to the non-malicious mistake of the other person.

    After reading this, I now have a question for you about handling this sort of verbal disrespect in the home and replacing it with an environment where both husband and wife gets treated with respect: Example: If wife hears, “How could you have been so stupid to do xyz,” from husband, what is the wife’s best response in handling such a response in order to not be continually disrespected?

    I almost don’t think the people who speak such a way realize the impact this has on the person they’re talking to in the manner and how it damages their own self-respect.

    I’m stumped trying to figure the best approach to such family interactions as criticism seems to be a typical way of relating when someone offends another–mostly unintentional.

    Your Highness My Husband’s Wife,

    Avoid arguments about either performance or name calling. Avoid smart aleck responses, such as “I married you didn’t I?” Or, “I was doing it for you, so you hired a stupid person. Right?”

    I suggest a harsh stare down and treat yourself to a huge dose of self-respect by departing the scene silently. If the job is unfinished, leave it that way and recover later. Don’t complain, don’t explain. For every similar name-calling event react the same way. Let the other person stew in your silence. Dealing with a man, a woman’s silence can be as powerful as her patience.

    Don’t ever let him know that you’re hurt. He won’t change until he figures that out all by himself. The more you earn self-respect in your eyes, the more respect you will earn in his thoughts.


    • My Husband's Wife

      Thank you so much! The smart aleck responses are the hardest to control, but knowing AHEAD of time a new approach and some planning will make this easier. I believe a lot of what is said in disrespect by my husband is what I’ve seen his family do to him, so it’s a passed on way of relating. I’m not O.K. with this sort of relating (even my current over-reactive, defensive, sarcastic responses that result are poor–it’s worst during “hormonal times” but no excuse for me!)

      I think that us married women should have pre-determined responses for conflict moments so we can handle them better. We know what the hot buttons are with our spouse as they are usually predictable and occur the same way all the time. After reading these posts, I’m now working to develop plans to respectfully handle my hot button issues.

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