We don’t always get the respect we deserve. In fact, comedian Rodney Dangerfield made a career of the line, “I get no respect…”.

While gaining others’ respect is critical to leadership success and career advancement, unfortunately, you can’t make someone respect you.

In fact, getting respect is deep into “influence and persuasion” territory, and not in the realm of “command and control”

Here are seven reasons why people fail to get respect even though they deserve it, along with some thoughts on how you can influence the situation.

1.  Not knowing what you want to be respected for

There are two definitions for respect according to the Oxford Dictionary:

  • a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements
  • due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others

The second definition is one that we hopefully extend to everyone. But here, we’re looking at the first definition, and it’s not possible to be generally respected for everything in life. People respect us for particular aspects of what we do and who we are, whether that’s a particular skill or the integrity with which we conduct ourselves.

What you can do:

Get clear on the dimension(s) on which you want to be judged. It’s hard to win an Oscar for “best actor” if you’re the director or cinematographer! Once you’re clear, it’s easier to align your efforts and the way you show up every day to reinforce that quality.

2.  Expecting to start from neutral

The reality is that everyone has a different default setting when it comes to judging whether to respect other people – and yes, people are judging each other all the time whether it’s conscious or not.

If you think you’re starting from neutral, but they’re in the “guilty until proven innocent” camp, you may not be making sufficient moves to counter this, and you’ll need to “up your dosage” just to get to neutral much less positive territory.

What you can do:

In addition to putting more evidence in front of these people, I’ve found that a great strategy is to indirectly “pave the way” by having your reputation or “word of mouth” work for you.

Figure out who influences those people and make sure those influencers have sufficient experiences with you to gain their respect. Over time, their informal views and influence can help move that tough grader to a positive position…or at least to neutral where you can reasonably expect to shift them into positive territory in the future.

3.  Being caught up in stereotype

Another thing to recognize is that others may be operating under assumptions based on stereotype that may or may not hold true in your case. For example, I’ve learned that people tend to see me as a “nice Chinese girl”: smart and hardworking but not wanting to speak up, make waves or confront people.

What you can do:

In this case, you will need to dispel some of those myths. Your goal is to get the person to see you as an individual rather than part of a stereotype. In my case, I had to learn to speak up in strategic ways (not just chipping in a fact here and there), and to do that in big meetings. And keep doing it until the weight of evidence sinks in.

4.  Not realizing it’s an ongoing process

Respect is rarely something that people decide to bestow on you based on a single interaction. Unlike a one-time inoculation, respect is based on a series of interactions. For better or worse, a negative data point – especially at the start – seems to have more impact than a string of positive ones. On the other hand, starting off with a few positive interactions can buy you the benefit of the doubt when there’s a negative experience later on. Either way, gaining and retaining respect is an ongoing process.

What you can do:

Make sure you get started on the right foot – resist the urge to discount the importance of people you don’t know. I remember pushing past someone on the train to get to my meeting on time, only to find that this person was the potential client I was traveling to meet for the first time. How embarrassing.

Also, make sure you have multiple times and ways to interact with the person so that you have a series of opportunities to provide data points and impress them. I ultimately was able to regain ground with that potential client after apologizing and having them see me in action enough times to overcome this bad start. So, keep going and realize that it’s usually not a one-shot deal.

5.  Not articulating your value

Few of us are mind readers, and most people are so busy with their own issues and goals that they’re not even thinking about you. So it’s up to you to clue them in about the value you bring rather than assuming they will figure it out on their own. Don’t be the proverbial tree falling in the forest that no one knows about.

What you can do:

Go back to the dimension(s) you want to be respected for in #1, and jot down your thoughts on the evidence you have and build the case for respect. Put it into 3 key points, or better yet, weave it into a brief storyline. Then, you might want to talk through the points or narrative with a friend – I find that helps me feel confident and also improves my storyline. Even if you don’t like bragging about yourself, you can do this – just keep it factual.

6.  Insisting on the irrelevant

This is when you keep banging on about the 2-3 things you believe make you worthy of respect, but they unfortunately, they aren’t relevant in the eyes of the other person.

What you can do:

Start with understanding things from the other person’s perspective – what matters to them? What do they value? What do you respect about them? That will give you clues for what will most resonate and be relevant to gaining their respect. Then you can frame your efforts in that direction and be more successful.

7.  Trying too hard

Finally, you may be overly focused on gaining someone’s respect – to the point where it backfires. It’s never a good idea to appear desperate. If you’re at that point, it’s time to back off, gain perspective and focus on something else. Give the person room to come around to a different conclusion in their own time.

What you can do:

When you’re in this frame of mind, then it’s time to forget about squeezing blood from this stone and instead, get back to doing your job well and simply allowing whatever is meant to unfold unfold. Some people find the “serenity prayer” helpful: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Finally, remember to respect yourself. That makes it more likely you can gain the respect of others with ease and grace.

What do you need to do to gain the respect you deserve?