Lately, I have found myself talking about “signs of respect” a lot. This makes me sound like either a freshman anthropology student or a D-grade mafia trainee, but let me explain. Here’s the issue underlying the appearance of this phrase in my daily conversations: I’ve become more attuned to the relative levels of respect shown to me and to other faculty members since starting my new job. For example, when I introduce myself to a faculty member who I haven’t met before, I make it a point to ask them what they work on and express at least a nominal level of interest. When they do not reciprocate, I consider this to be a lack of respect. I can’t really think of why you wouldn’t return the question, unless you’d already decided that whatever the other person worked on was unimportant. A much more straight-forward sign of respect is for undergraduates to refer to their professors as “Dr.” or “Professor” until they’ve been invited to switch to the first name. I know that a lot of students have become comfortable going straight to the first name, but I prefer to retain the title for at least the first semester I have them in class.
From my end, I’ve realized that I need to work on showing respect in some different situations. I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was escorting one of our seminar speakers to their next appointment, I ran into Shaggy and introduced the speaker using nothing but her first name. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I introduce her has “Our speaker today, Jane Doe?” Not only did Shaggy have a hard time remembering who Jane was, which made it awkward for him, it was just rude of me not to show her the respect that she deserved as an invited speaker who was putting quite a bit of work into the day on our behalf. Sigh. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson.
Do any readers out there have any good examples of ways that you think people show respect, or refrain from showing it (either on purpose or accidentally)?