R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” who died earlier this month at age 76 and is being laid to rest today in a celebration of her life in song, was not only one of the most commanding and influential vocalists of her generation—she was a personal hero of mine.

Aretha’s powerful voice provided the soundtrack to my youth. Growing up as a child of the 70s and a college student of the 80s, I listened to her music on repeat. As I grew up and moved toward my professional goals, her song lyrics resonated in my head. I was a young woman who wanted to become a doctor before it was fashionable for women to do so. Although I knew that I was capable and driven, many around me believed that such a choice would interfere with any desire that I may have had to marry and start a family.

As I thought about creating a life and a career that I wanted for myself—in defiance of those external doubts and disparaging comments—that song would play in my mind:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
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Take care, TCB
Oh! (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)
A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)

Aretha had taken the original Otis Redding song and flipped the genders to make it about a woman boldly demanding the respect of her man. But showing and receiving respect is critical in all aspects of life. If you ask anyone in any kind of relationship—whether romantic or platonic, whether at home or at work—about the way they want to be treated, the desire to be treated with dignity and respect will likely be at the top of that list.

We know when someone respects us, and we also generally know when they don’t. We all want to receive respect, but not all of us are practiced at showing it. How can we be better at demonstrating our respect? Here are five tips:

  1. Be kind and gracious in interactions with others and treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s not only good for them but it’s good for you, as kindness eases anxiety, reduces stress, and boosts serotonin, a feel-good hormone.
  2. Ask others for their ideas and opinions and really listen to what they’re saying. Listen with an open mind and heart and make sure they are fully done with their point before you chime in with your thoughts.
  3. Don’t attack. Avoid criticism of someone’s ideas, even in jest.
  4. Don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk. Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. Make sure you are physically mirroring what you are saying to demonstrate your sincerity.
  5. Say “thank you.” This seems like common sense, but many people either fail to say thank you or else they don’t say it like they mean it. Give people credit for their ideas and contributions, and go out of your way to make sure that people know you appreciate them.

If you want your relationships—whether in your personal life or in your team or your organization—to prosper, remember these three basic principles for success: mutual respect, kindness, and gratitude.

And, as for me, I made it through medical school and learned the life-long value of respect for myself and others. Thank you, Aretha! Long live the music, the voice, and the spirit of the Queen!