The Word That Guarantees You’ll Win Friends & Influence People… & Win in Court

Feb 19, 2016
Shai Harary

“Show respect to the other person’s opinion. Never say ‘you’re wrong.’ ” ~ Dale Carnegie

If I could identify the single most important aspect to conducting yourself in a street savvy way both in your personal and professional life, it would be one word – RESPECT. It should be your go-to place from first glance – even though deep respect is something that is ultimately earned over time. None of us are any better than anyone else, and there is no valid reason to look down on someone else or in any way give someone else the impression that we think we’re better than they are. By extending that initial courtesy and benefit of the doubt, the person you are ultimately respecting the most – and potentially saving from all kinds of unnecessary problems – is yourself.

In general, people have some basic needs that must be met for things to run smoothly. They want to be heard, understood and appreciated. All of this can happen when respect is in the mix. It fosters feelings of trust and reinforces the credibility of each party, creating fertile ground for agreement and/or reconciliation.

Conversely, when people feel ignored, disrespected and unacknowledged, it taps into potent, destructive emotions that go back to childhood. I can’t count the number of times as a kid I saw fights break out on the streets of New York because someone felt “dissed” by another person. But I can recall the number of times business disputes ended up in court because of a perceived “dissing.” This is often the origin of litigation “on principal.” Business people commonly resort to the legal system to force respect. As a rule of thumb, I’d say that works… never.

Respect opens doors to rapport, resolution and reconciliation. Disrespect leads to dispute, disruption and disconnection. It’s that simple.

Now, for a real world example of what I’m talking about regarding respect and how it plays out in a legal setting. I recently finished a hotly contested jury trial that dealt with high emotion, intensity and pressure over a ten-day period of time. I did my best during the trial to illustrate my respect for the court, the witnesses and especially the jury. At no time did I conduct myself in an aggressive, abrasive or confrontational fashion – as I’ve mentioned before, you really don’t need a pit bull lawyer. I argued my points with the court but respected its decisions once they were rendered.

In short, I did Aretha Franklin, and her plea for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, justice.

This stood in contrast with my opponent’s stance during this trial. He repeatedly acted dismissively and even threatened the judge, attacked witnesses and talked down to the jury. He did his best to obstruct my presentation of the case and was rude and disrespectful to my client.

The result? The jury granted my opposing counsel less than one percent of what he asked for.

After the trial, I was flattered to find the entire jury waiting for us in the hallway to talk about their experience in regards to the way that the lawyers and parties acted during the trial. It was gratifying to hear them comment on my professionalism, which at the core had an unflappable commitment to remaining respectful to ALL parties – including my opposition – throughout. While I was grateful that their experience was positive, I let them all know that my respect for their time, their intelligence and the vital role that they played in the trial made it easy for me to keep my conduct in check.

As Dale Carnegie so aptly pointed out, you get what you need when you give it up to others’ opinions. A little deference goes a long way. When people are not treated with respect, it’s almost impossible to get from them what you want… and moreover, you’re most likely to get from them something that you don’t want.

So don’t wait to find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to someone else – focus instead on what it means to you as the most effective and crucial tool to help you avoid conflict and stay away from litigation. An ounce of respect can prevent a pound of litigation.

Photo: Martin Abegglen