Respect…Where has it gone and what we could do to bring it back

In Blackbelt in Business by Chris Berlow1 Comment

I was having a conversation with a young 19 year old man who is extremely close to me and he referred to one of my personal friends by their first name. As a young adult, I believe he should refer to more established adults by “Mr.” or “Mrs.” unless asked otherwise. Even then, I think they he use the respectful pre-fix. Am I wrong in thinking so? What do you think?

Well, I called him out on it and I was blown away by his response. He said….

“Why should I, I’m an adult?”

I appreciated his response and understood where he was coming from but I really couldn’t help myself and replied:

“Yes, but you honestly aren’t a true adult until you are 100% self sufficient and take on adult level responsibilities. Until then, you honestly have not earned the right to call her by her first name. She is an accomplished adult and has much more life experience.”

He wasn’t understanding where I was coming from. The conversation continued and he was still resistant to the idea of showing proper respect to someone more than twice his age. He said:

“Yes, but I don’t want anyone to think I am beneath them.”

I took this as a really good “teachable” moment and said…

“How does showing respect represent that you are beneath someone? No-one is beneath anyone unless you allow yourself to think so. Showing respect is about being humble, showing humility and doing the right thing. You cannot receive respect because you think you’re an adult. You will earn respect by your actions and who you are as a person. The more respect you give, the more respect you will receive. By saying: Mrs. __________ is showing proper etiquette and demonstrating that you are a respectful person.”

At the end of the day, the same type of people we are talking about are the same ones to hire you and give you opportunities for your future. It would probably make sense to show a little extra respect especially where it is due?


The conversation took a serious turn to say the least and then he said…

“What if someone older than me disrespects me?”

I said…

“Simple, kill them with kindness and take the high road. The only one who could ever allow someone to make you feel dis-respected is you. If you think that someone is talking down to you and it bothers you, that is your lack of confidence if you allow it to effect you. Someone who is confident doesn’t need to prove themselves to anyone, they just know it within themselves. Then when someone says something negative that you could perceive as disrespectful, it won’t ever bother you.”

I was reflecting on the conversation a bit more and was thinking about my own life. I am 46 years old and to this day I still refer to my best friend’s parents as Mr. & Mrs. and I always will. When I see any adult, I always say “Yes Sir” or “Yes Ma’am” no matter how old they are. Some may think it is due to my martial arts background but it’s not, it’s how my parents raised me. (of course martial arts definitely helped)

So where did this go wrong? Why is this generation not willing to give respect where respect is due?

Well, I chalk it up to a huge mistake we, as a generation, has made…..

Adults…We are not their friends…we are the authority and we have to accept that fact!

Sad to say but we did it to ourselves. Many parents want to be the “cool” parents and treat their kids as friends. That’s a huge mistake. Of course they are going to think they’re your equal because you established yourself as such. Parents need to establish themselves as the authority and the kids need to understand that they need to respect and listen to the parents and authority in general. When children are 100% self-sufficient, then and only then could you have a more “friend” based relationship. Interestingly, at that point the children will show more respect because they now understand what it takes to be an adult.

Same is true in the work place or any position of authority for the same reasons. It has to be clear who is in charge and who is not. Leadership of any kind needs to keep things “Black & White” and stay away from the “Grey”. Just as I mentioned in my last article (Part two on “Entitlement, what have we done”). When the lines are blurred and we’re in the grey area, respect is lost and there will is no effective leadership. How could a coach lead their athletes if there is no respect? How could a manager/executive lead their employees if there is no respect? Answer is simple, they can’t!

After thinking for a bit, I came up with three ways to bring respect back into our society

1. Be friendly but not their friends

This is crucial when it comes to parenting or any kind of leadership relationship. We always want to be friendly to whoever we come in contact with. That is a must but being friendly is a mindset and approach but doesn’t define the relationship. It is having a respectful and positive attitude wherever you go. Being their friends is a bit more intimate and comes with equal responsibility. Expectations will change and once that line is crossed from being friendly to being their friend, respect will be gone by the waste-side.

2. Teach “Generation Y” to respect their elders

We have to do this. This is the whole essence of this article. We have to bring back the same values as when we were raised. Addressing adults by the first name is a complete non-acceptable and cannot happen. Especially if we want to bring back respect into our society. Every young adult should refer to your elders by “Mr.” or “Mrs.”, by their respected title or by saying “Yes Sir” or “Yes Ma’am”. How are we ever going to raise the level of respect if we don’t hold them to it. Don’t worry, just because we say that they should respect their elders does not signify that our generation is old. We may be “Older” but we’re not “Old” yet. (Or maybe we’re in denial and we don’t realize it)

3. Be the example

Whenever I teach my martial arts students or coach adults in Empowered Mastery, the idea of “Being the best example” always comes in to play. I love the saying, “To be the best leader, you must be the best follower.” Meaning that you have to show the respect to others as you expect others to show respect to you. There are not two sets of rules. Don’t expect to be respected if you don’t respect others regardless of where they are in their life’s stages. I heard a story of a very successful entrepreneur giving the wait staff at a restaurant a hard time. Belittling them as if they are beneath them. That is wrong and down right disgusting! True leadership will set the example no matter what. Don’t tell others to be respectful if you don’t hold yourself to the same values.


Now, I have to let you know that there was a positive ending to our conversation. He came to the conclusion that he is going to take what I said and put it into action. He said to me:

“Well, you are successful and I want to be successful tool. If you say that I should respect my elders as you do, I’m going to follow your example.”

See, there is hope for the future generation and that is why we have to be strict and hold individuals to expectations we set. It is not about being nice or mean, it is making them accountable.

There you have it. Let’s all come together and show others how to be more respectful and bring back the great qualities of the generations before us.

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Thank you for the opportunity to work with you and look forward to hearing from you.

With great respect,

Chris Berlow


  1. So I deal with this all of the time..To be honest it is something I am a true believers in…There is nothing more disrespectful to me than when I meet new friends and they introduce me to their children by my first name…I have not once let this go without explaining to them trying not to be rude, I am sorry children do not refer to me by my first name…

    The thing that bothers me even more is when my children who I teach to show respect are put into situations where the adults try to undo their good home upbringing… I swear everytime i hear an adult tell my children “Don’t call me ma’am/sir…Mr./Mrs. That makes me sound old or “ohhh no “Mrs. Smith is my Mother-in-Law”…

    Personally I don’t understand the premise of it… In my Martial arts studies where i am the student training I have a hard time because there are teenagers who I train with and I have a hard time when these kids call me by my first name… I don’t know where or why this even started.

    Thank You for making this a subject I am curious to what feedback will be…I have not worked in the corporate World much but I wonder what happens in the business world but do Micheal Bloombergs’ employees call him Mike or Mr. Bloomberg.

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