Let us get something straight first.
You should not try to gain respect or project strength!
Just as you when you try to be cool, you end up sounding desperate and stupid. And just as when you try to impress other people, you end up impressing no one.
When you try to project strength, you sound anything but strong. When you try to get people’s respect, they hoard it.
Strong people do not go out there trying to project strength.
Because they know that they are strong. And counterintuitively, this very behavior is the ultimate projection of strength.
And the very act of trying to project something communicates, subconsciously, that you don’t have it.
So, let us get this straight.
You need to forget about the idea that you are going to do this and that, and then people will think that you are strong.
Why do you even want to make people think you are strong?
It may sound like a question that does not fit an article literally with the title, “how to be strong and demand respect.”
Confident and strong people do not care about sounding strong. Only people who are not so sure of their strength and confidence (and competence!) do that.
When you get this mindset, the behavior which shows strength is going to flow naturally.
You become actually strong and confident.
And the best part is that it comes without trying to be perceived as confident, strong, or respectful — you are confident and you do not need to prove it.
That said, here is how to practically apply the advice of not trying too hard to project strength and gain respect.
Do not try to impress people or get them to like you
Here is a rule:
The more you try to impress people and wow them, the more likely you will repel them.
The more you try to impress, the less anybody will be impressed.
Nothing screams neediness and weakness more than a person who is trying to get others’ approval because he/she believes they are worthless without it.
Their identity depends on it.
Had they been sure about themselves, opinions, ideas, beliefs, behaviors, and personalities, they would not have cared that much about the opinion and the approval of those around them.
You have to adopt the mentality which says: you don’t need people to believe that you are a good person and that you are worthy of knowing and listening to.
This feeling of worthiness (not blind entitlement)must come from within.
If you don’t feel it or feel the opposite of it, that’s where you should be working.
That is an ongoing journey.
Reading will facilitate your progress if you apply what you read and learn how to trust yourself with difficult decisions.
But anyway, you need the belief that you do not need people’s approval to be worthy and that you are already worthy of knowing.
You don’t have to prove anything to them for them to like you and approve of you.
So, when you are around people, adopt this mindset.
You are not here to impress them.
You are not here to make them like you.
In fact, catch yourself every time you try to do something to impress other people and stop it right away.
Chances are you are going to be afraid that when you stop doing this that people will dislike you. But stop it anyway.
You are worth it. You will be okay.
Sit down and prepare yourself to be brutally honest with yourself.
Make a list of the behaviors that you do to impress people and get their approval. Seriously. Write them down.
Because you need to be aware of them.
This might be hard, but it is a must. Then, consciously and purposely stop engaging in these behaviors whenever you catch yourself doing them (you will be fine, trust me!).
For instance, I realized that I sometimes try to be seen with the guys I consider cool.
I realized that I sometimes go out of my way to meet them, even though some of them are obviously dicks who ignore most people (me included).
What did I do? I started ignoring them. Not to get any attention but really ignoring them because I decided to value myself more.
Since then, I have learned the habit of ignoring those who ignore me or those who give me less than what I expect in any social situation.
And man, it was one of the best habits I have ever learned in my social life.
It is like a snowball, by the way.
Photo by Pauline Bernfeld on Unsplash
Slowly, you end up developing more assertive behaviors like not tolerating any type of disrespect and not being friends with those who do not support your best future version. u.
That all can start by making the decision of, “I am enough and I do not need to impress people to get their approval,” and then applying this decision by consciously stopping the approval-seeking behaviors.
Start small. But start and go all the way.
Respect is earned
You do not have to be a bully to gain respect.
In fact, I do not like the notion of gaining respect by intimidating people and making them afraid of you.
That is not real respect.
That is fear and using authoritative positions to make people do what you want.
However, respect is an important subject, especially in our context.
Powerful people are respected. So, a part of projecting strength is gaining respect.
Or more precisely, the output of projecting strength is gaining respect. One way or another at least.
Before anything, I will repeat the same idea I mentioned above about projecting strength.
You do not try to gain people’s respect. You do not try to make people respect you by doing this and that.
People do not, and will not, respect those who actively try to gain respect. In fact, they devalue them, disrespect them, and distrust them.
People usually give their respect to those who do not try to gain respect.
Because if you are constantly out there trying to convince people to respect you, what does that say about you? It obviously says that you do not respect yourself enough and you have to get respect from other people to survive –your self-esteem depends on them giving you their respect. Nothing is admirable or respect-worthy about this.
If you are sure about something, you will not try to prove it.
If you try to prove something, it means you don’t have it. The more aggressively you try to prove you have it, the less you actually have it.
That said, people also give respect to those who have something worth respecting.
And this ‘something’ is not necessarily a car or a lot of fans (although these may help you have better social proof, some people have all these things and are not respected by anyone).
This ‘something’ is your own self-respect.
As cliché as it may sound, people respond to this better than any other signals you may be broadcasting.
And make no mistake about it, people can sense whether someone has enough self-respect or not.
It is not just about the way you treat other people. It is about the way you treat your own self.
What we have just discussed above about not trying to impress other people or get their approval is considered self-respect. Doing nice things for yourself is self-respect. Being yourself is self-respect. Walking away from whatever hurts you is self-respect. Standing up to a bully is self-respect. Being assertive and very clear about your own boundaries is self-respect. Having your own opinions, ideas, decisions, and beliefs (and living by them) is self-respect.
Those are things you cannot fake.
The catch is that you do not do these things to get respect or to be liked.
Strong, high-status people do these things because they care about themselves.
Your motive matters here. If you do all these things just to impress people and manipulate their feelings about you, you are still needy and weak and will be seen as such sooner or later.
Do them because you value your well-being and care about your existence.
The next step is about treating other people the same way you treat yourself
You treat yourself with respect and treat others with respect as well.
And this is where the so-called charisma comes into play.
Charismatic people are capable of making other people feel good about themselves.
And nothing makes most people feel good about themselves more than being treated with respect as human beings.
There is a lot to be said about charisma.
But, there is a piece of advice that can make you more charismatic, which is treating people with respect, making them feel heard, and making them feel important.
This means that when you are dealing with people, it is more about them and how impressive you find them rather than how impressive you can be.
In the book The Charisma Myth, which I highly recommend, there are a few types of charisma which are referred to as kindness charisma and presence charisma.
- Kindness charisma is about projecting kindness and empathy and making people feel comfortable.
- Presence charisma is about being here and giving the person or the people around you your whole attention and thus making them feel heard and important.
As a teacher, I found both of these charisma styles amazing.
Sure, there are times when you need to be assertive and project authority.
But those styles can work in showing people that you respect them and value them as human beings, something that has worked wonderfully well with my students.
And when people notice that you are practicing self-respect and not trying to impress them or manipulate their behavior, and also notice that you treat them with respect and consider them important, they tend to respond back with respect and even admiration.
What is important is that you first treat yourself with respect and show some self-confidence which is supported by a strong (and humble) sense of self-worth.
If you treat people well and with respect without treating yourself with that respect first (remember, people can sense that), it is still good but people will notice that you are not aligned with your behaviors and you do not walk your talk.
Some of them might not take you that seriously and consider you a pushover and a people pleaser.
(Note: if you worry that someone considers you a pushover, then you are probably a pushover for thinking that way, regardless of what the other person actually thinks! Be honest with yourself.)
Respect yourself through actions.
Do not just say it. Do it. Demonstrate it. To your own self, not to other people.
Do it because you care about who you are as a person.
Then, treat people the same way you treat yourself: with respect. Show them that they are really important and that you care about them.
Sure, do not fake it. You have to consider them important and really care about them.
If you do not, it is probably a sign that you need to have different people around you that you genuinely care about and who genuinely care about you, too.
And generally, deal with people from that place of self-respect.
Respect them and do not respect those who do not respect you. Do this instead of worrying about respect. It will become less of an issue for you because you do not really care.
Body language is important
I will not talk a lot about body language. A lot has been written about it and there are good sources for it online and offline.
I like to think of body language as a helpful tool.
It does not solve all your confidence and charisma issues and it does not magically make bullies get away from you.
It helps. I cannot deny that. But you should use it along with all the other solutions discussed in this book.
The thing we just discussed regarding self-respect and projecting strength is more important than any body language tip because it is a permanent solution.
However, having the right body language can help a lot. Sometimes, it can save you. It helps you create positive situations that can aid your self-respect in the long run.
Here are a few points that you need to consider:
- Keep your chin up. Tilt your head back.
- See the triangle-shaped bone right under your throat? Keep it up. By doing that, you will keep your chest up and your shoulders will fall back naturally.
- Walk as someone who is proud of him/herself. Mimic the walk of people you admire. Just look at how Denzel Washington walks!
- Make strong eye contact. Look people right in the eye when you speak to them. Avoid breaking eye contact right away –keep it for a while and avoid hasty eye contact where you look at someone and directly break it.
- Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width and put your hands behind your back. This is one of the postures of self-confidence.
- Avoid folding your arms or crossing your legs.
- Avoid fidgeting.
That should help you project confidence through your body language. It can help even when you are not feeling that confident.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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