Here’s a riddle for you. What is the thing that everyone wants but very few give? The thing that people will stare you in the eye and loudly demand, as their very actions prove they aren’t worthy of it. It’s something that just about every parent, boss, spouse, and teacher thinks comes automatically with the territory – irregardless of their actions.
Something most of us want everyone else to earn while it’s just given to us.
Powerful word. Life-Changing word. Beautiful word. Sadly it’s usually an overlooked, ignored, and discarded word. Respect is one of those things that everyone wants, and demands, but refuses to give.
I just read a very interesting book, Battles between Somebodies and Nobodies: Combat Abuse of Rank at Work and at Home, by Julie Ann Wambach, Ph.D. that does a beautiful job exploiting this very fact.
Robert W. Fuller coined the phrase rankism as a description for the misuse of power by those in power when they mistreat individuals who are less forceful. Julie Ann Wambach writes, “Rankism, the abuse of position within a hierarchy, is the core of all mistreatment, regardless of the context. Rankism is an umbrella for every sort of abuse you can think of. Huddled under the rankism umbrella are reasons one set of people discriminates against another group. While some details of a specific abuse situation can be unique, the dynamics of all mistreatment, all discrimination, are remarkably similar.”
My take? Some bullies never actually leave the playground. Their “playground” simply transforms into an office, a living room, a kitchen, a board room, a classroom, etc. What they got away with then, perhaps because they were bigger, louder, meaner – or all of the above – is what they’re trying to get away with now (perhaps because they’re still bigger, louder, and meaner). Somehow they confuse fear with respect. One isn’t the other and it never will be.
Early in the book, the author establishes the “pecking order” amongst birds, animals, and humans. Each world has their Alphas and their Omegas. Rankists are those Alphas who wish to impose their will and selfish desires on the rest while refusing to take other’s feelings or needs into account. Rankists are the most selfish creatures to ever live.
What they fail to realize, however, is that their self-centered, self-serving actions are ensuring that they never get the one thing they want most – respect. Relationships are much like mirrors – the way you treat others will always stare you right in the face. If you treat others as though they’re beneath you, as though they’re jokes, thorns, or flesh and blood obstacles – you aren’t going to like the you that’s reflected.
Unless you have a thing for monsters.
Rankists somehow get caught up in it all. They aren’t bad people – a point which the author drives home. They’re simply caught up in a cycle that they often don’t realize. Personally, I believe that most don’t even fully realize what they’ve become until one day when they go into the office’s break room and everyone quietly slips out. Or they come in from work and the attitude of the house isn’t “Yay! She’s home from work! ,” but rather, “Oh. Great. Fun’s over. She’s here.”
It just doesn’t have to be this way!
If you feel that you have evolved into a rankist or feel like you’re on a slippery slope headed in that direction – throw on your breaks! You don’t want people running from you, which is exactly what they’ll do.
Become proactive: Begin treating people with the utmost respect.
- Look them in the eye when speaking to them.
- If someone speaks to you, speak back. Don’t act as though they’re infringing on your time or space. You aren’t above them simply because you’re older, have more money, are better looking, have a higher IQ , can bench press more, are bigger… or any combination of the above! None of that makes people love or respect you.
- If someone makes a mistake, don’t shine your flashlight on it for the world to see. Treat the moment as you’d want someone to treat one of your own mistakes.
- Do completely selfless, kind, and random acts of kindness for others. You’ll fall so in love with how it makes you feel that you’ll do these things without even thinking about them.
- Don’t be a demanding, impatient person. When a rankist comes across this way, people are less likely to give them their best. In fact, right or wrong, they’ll stop trying.
What goes around, comes around – like a boomerang with 20/20 vision. If you have to chant affirmations to yourself daily, go for it! (I am not better than anyone else. No one is beneath me. I have no right to make others feel small.) Do whatever it takes to right your ship before it takes you into a cold, dark, lonely bay.
I was thinking about this book and this post last night while lying in bed, awake at 2:30 am. My husband of nearly 25 years is out of town on business for two nights. Our cat Alexa and I were lying there thinking how much we missed him and his silly sense of humor. It occurred to me that, sadly, many spouses would be having the time of their life if their spouse was away for an evening or two! If their husband or wife didn’t treat them with respect or tried to go all Alpha on them all the time – they’d probably beg them to go out of town more often. I was thankful, though lonely, that this wasn’t the case.
Please, let everyone around you love and respect you. I don’t want you to end up in that bay. I’m actually more worried about the rankists than I am the ones they abuse, and that may seem completely insane. But I’ve seen enough families and enough situations to know how it ends.
I’ll finish with a bit of a personal story. A distant relative of mine was a rankist and a bully. Not all stepfather/stepmother situations play out negatively – in fact I’ve known familes where you’d never even guess that a step was involved. However, in this particular situation, the man (the stepfather) capitalized the S, the T, the E, and the P.
He was somewhat subtle about it – but a bully nonetheless. His approach for keeping the “step” family at arm’s length was to ignore them. When the “nonstep” family came into his home, he’d jump up and run to greet them, smiling, joking, and genuinely glad to welcome the worthy.
When the step family came in, he never left his chair, never put his paper down or look up from the tv – that sort of thing. Whenever any of them dared to speak to him, he would either grunt a response or fall dead silent. It was his bullying way of saying, “You aren’t worthy of my time or my attention.”
This man is completely and entirely alone now and I’m probably sadder for him than I am those whom he treated like mud on the bottom of his shoe. After all, when he thought he was wounding them so badly, they actually just laughed behind his back. He was a grumpy joke and didn’t have anyone’s love or respect. He continually disappointed the ones who did love him with his actions and caused more stress and unhappiness for his wife than any one person should be allowed to cause. The stress on her took its toll in the worst possible way.
I’m certain that if he had the chance to do it all over, he’d welcome a large, happy family. He’d jump out of his chair for every single face that came through his door and probably even hug them. What honestly brings a tear to my eye right now is the absolute joy that he would have brought to his little wife. All she wanted was a large, happy family with peace and laughter. And one man kept it from ever happening.
If you suspect that you are, in any way, standing in the way of someone else’s happiness or joy – please, please, please, step aside. You’ll find a much better, happier world for yourself as well.