With all due respect


This widely used phrase is and was initially intended as a signal that a polite disagreement would follow. We all know that context, tone, facial expressions and gestures send messages that are more powerful than the words themselves.
Indeed it can be an exercise in self-restraint, a warning that what follows may be provocative or a regret at having to contradict a person of power, authority or esteem.
I have heard the phrase uttered in mocking terms on the political hustings, in Parliament, the United States Congress and at public meetings; where aggressive responses ensued. In many instances, it seems to be an act of political correctness.
It is no secret that political and diplomatic gridlock is happening all over the world. At this point, conflict, antagonism and discord are so rampant that many feel and believe economic security and social harmony cannot occur. This creates a very debilitating state of mind that prevents us from doing our best.
How do you practice genuine respect? What is an example of someone or something that is worthy of your esteem, admiration or affection? Think about your feelings, intentions and how you interact with that person. What are the circumstances that cause you to withhold respect?
All over the world, there are specially coded behaviours and mannerism that convey respect. Bowing among Japanese and handshakes among Western cultures are probably the most universally recognized. There are so many differences where one can unintentionally convey disrespect, that courses which deal with these nuances are in hot demand.
Howard Gardner, in his book; Five Minds For The Future talks about a form of false respect called “kiss up to kick down”.
He says: “All too many individuals in positions of power have attained their status, in part, because of their abilities to flatter and serve those who already occupy positions of authority. But when these same individuals are seen to ignore, beat up on, or disparage those of lesser influence, they reveal their lack of genuine respect for others.”
Genuinely respectful people recognize that everyone wants and needs to be respected. They also recognize the difference between praise and flattery. The latter evokes a feeling of suspicion and the former creates a sense of being valued.
Similarly, there is a vast difference between people or their ideas being accepted vs tolerated. A reliable indicator of genuine respect is when the person acknowledges the feelings and content expressed by others; finds something of merit and uses it a basis to collaborate.
My intent is genuinely respectful of the difficult challenges faced by government leaders, so: “With all due respect; how can we now be hearing of a plan for the Government to purchase the Almond Resort when there are no details of how it will successfully operate it? What are the elements that make it viable when its present owners deem it unworthy of further investment? By what means can you realistically project an opening in 2013?”
“With all due respect, when will we be able to see a map, with all the dots connected, that shows how the various programmes and initiatives come together to as a cogent plan to improve our overall circumstances? What are the mechanisms for implementation and monitoring?”
These questions are asked with raised eyebrows, a quizzical expression and the deepest desire to understand.
•  Dennis Strong is founding president of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants.


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