Respect for strangers.

Sometimes I read something I mean to write about, and then it totally slips my mind — like this piece from Possibility Virus blog of Michael Bungay Stanier. It took me so long to get around to this gem that the original post doesn’t seem to be available any more. Good thing I copied the article he referenced.

Nikki Weiss wrote the piece called “Leadership Tips from my Dad.” You can read her whole article here. I was struck by this part:

“I wish she had the courtesy to treat me like a stranger.”

This leadership principle is so amazingly simple. It says: “If you don’t like me you can be indifferent to me, but mean is unacceptable.” I notice a fair amount of meanness in the workplace that takes the form of passive aggression. We’ve all seen it but maybe not put quite that same name to it: gossip, withholding or not fully sharing information, criticizing management, and not supporting colleagues.

just plain meanIf you wouldn’t even treat strangers like that — then that’s mean.

And that for me is the bottom line of respect. Why is it that we treat strangers better than we treat people we know? Sometimes even people we are supposed to love — like spouses or children.

In John Gottman’s book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How You Can Make Yours Last, he outlines the Four Horsemen of divorce — criticism, contempt, defensiveness and withdrawal. These are the behaviors that most likely to be evident in problematic relationships. And problems in relationships can feel a lot like mean.

I sure know when I see these behaviors in others. But catching it in myself might be more difficult. How do you keep yourself from sliding into mean? What can you do about it?