ps, Respectfully Yours
Walking back from the ASTD2012 ICE, the notion of respect remains on my mind. I wanted to share some ideas about differences I have seen and felt on an international and cultural level.
When I first arrived in Belgium I was loved by few, ignored by many and actively disrespected by some.
The last bunch of people (who shall remain nameless) most likely disrespected me out of suspicion and fear, as noted in the session with Paul Meshanko and Jim Knight today. They didn’t know who I was, what I wanted or what I stood for. They didn’t understand me, my preferences or my behaviour. I came from “nowhere” and couldn’t express myself in ways that related to their own experience. Even worse: I didn’t know anyone they knew…
Those who ignored me probably felt the same things, but were not hostile. Just aloof.
When I started as an independent trainer, I was interviewed by a training company who asked me: “Who have you worked for?” If I had been Belgian, I suspect the question may have been “What school did you go to?” Nothing I could answer would satisfy my interlocutor’s need for some kind of familiarity. I was alien.
When I wanted to say “Yes, but here’s what I can do” it didn’t mean anything.
This highlights my first point, which we can learn about in more detail from Trompenaars’ book “Riding the Waves of Culture”: For some cultures, respect is not about who you are and what you can do, but who you know and where you come from.
According to Trompenaars, in other cultures respect is associated with what you can do. These are the “achievement cultures” (as opposed to the “ascription cultures” referenced above).
What I find interesting today, here in the USA, is the level of respect I have been accorded by all the americans I have run into. I am called “Sir”. People turn to face me as soon as I arrive near them, smile and ask sincerely how I am doing or what they can do for me. This is much closer to the kind of respect Meshanko and Knight discussed today. Their respect for me is not based on who I am, where I come from or what I can do. They simply respect me for being another human being.
This is one of the values that Hard Rock Cafe lives by every day: “All is One”
Taking my reasoning one step further, I realise that the respect I have spoken of for the first 8 paragraphs of this post is not actually “respect”, but rather “esteem” or maybe simply “tolerance”. Real respect is an attitude that of hospitality and “going-toward”. That’s what I feel every day here in the USA.