IVZ 43 | Culture Of Respect


Respect is the foundation of any form of communication, including negotiations. It should precede trust, yet it is hardly talked about when it comes to negotiations. Learn more about the culture of respect with today’s guest, Mike Domitrz, the founder of The Center For Respect. Mike has worked with major corporations, schools, and universities on creating a culture of respect. In this conversation with Christine McKay, Mike illustrates different scenarios that highlight just how important respect is in building an effective and efficient work environment and cultivating healthy communication. He also gives actionable advice and shares important questions you should be asking that can help you set up a foundation of respect in the workplace.

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Mike Domitrz On The Culture of Respect: The Foundation Of Healthy Workplace Culture

I am excited and incredibly honored to have Mike Domitrz with me. Mike is the Founder of The Center for Respect. Respect is a topic that I feel doesn’t get enough coverage when we’re talking about the negotiation conversation. I know a lot of people in the market, Keld Jensen being one of them, who talks a lot about trust in negotiation. Respect happens before we even have trust. There have been many times that I have been disrespected in negotiation. I’ve had guys pat me on the head and say, “You don’t get it.” I’ve had people throw things at me. I’ve had people call me every vile name that you could ever imagine calling a woman in a negotiation. I’ve been ambushed in negotiation by seven guys screaming, yelling, and spitting in my face. These are things that happen and they happen to all of us. Many of us experienced these things.

What do we do when we’re in situations where we feel as if we’re being disrespected? How do we take those situations and turn them around and create a different relationship? Do we have to walk away all the time? Are there things that we can do? How do we move those conversations forward in those situations? Mike, as the Founder of The Center of Respect, teaches these things to companies and people all over the world. He works with the military and major corporations. He goes into schools, high schools, colleges, and universities to teach people how to ask for consent, treat people with respect, and help prevent and combat the issue of sexual harassment. Mike, I am grateful to have you here. I love having met you through our Tribe For Leaders group. Thank you. I’m honored and excited to have this conversation with you.

Thanks for having me, Christine. I’m honored. I am grateful for both our friendship and the connections we have made through TFL and other events we’ve been at together. I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you.

I gave you a high-level overview of your bio. Tell us about your journey. What led you to The Center for Respect and the work that you’re doing?

I was nineteen years old when my journey began. I received a phone call that one of my sisters had been raped. I was a college student at the time. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, Christine. I was enraged, confused, lost, and crying. What I would later learn is that there’s nothing I could do to reverse what happened to my sister. I was at college at the time and doing well. My grades would struggle. I struggled to figure things out. I would realize there’s nothing I could do about what already happened but I could do a lot about what happens to others going forward and that’s where my mission began.

I heard a speaker about six months after that and I thought, “I can use my voice to do something about this.” I went to that speaker and I said, “How do you get started?” He said, “Show up at my place.” I did and he said, “Nobody ever shows up.” We spent the day together. I wrote my first speech at that time. I went to a local high school to a teacher I knew. I said, “Can I present this to your classroom?” Thankfully, they trusted me and they said, “Sure.” After that, they said, “Mike, this is what you should be doing.” That’s where my journey began.

At that time, I become twenty. From 20 to 21, I started speaking out in schools and middle schools. I was struggling because our culture wasn’t talking about a culture of respect, not at that time. It wasn’t talking about what I was talking about sexual violence. I was 20 or 21, and I looked like I was 16. That didn’t help at all. What happened was we were getting good responses from the people I was working with but we couldn’t get in the door anywhere because they’re like, “We’re not letting Doctorates talk about this. We’re not going to let a 21-year-old talk about this.”

IVZ 43 | Culture Of Respect
Culture Of Respect: Respect was the number one influencer on productivity, wellness, retention, and all these areas companies care deeply about.


I went full-time into it until I was 24 and realized I was hitting too many walls. I left it. I came back to it when I was 32 and the world was in a different place. It took off. What happened was the military saw what I was doing with universities and said, “Could you do this for us?” That was 2005. The military got added and then, slowly, companies would say, “Could you help us with this?” That got at it. That’s where each layer continually added as it went along.

I feel for your sister. I am a rape survivor, too. For me and many others, I appreciate the work that you do because it’s important.

Thank you, Christine, for sharing your strength and courage. You’re a role model of survivors living incredible lives. That’s what we need to talk a lot about in this world. Too often, people say, “Rape ruins lives.” It’s is a horrible statement to make to any survivor. There are survivors living amazing lives. It’s a lie also. Saying it’s a horrible crime is different than saying it ruins lives. There’s a big difference in those statements.

One of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show is because I heard a woman speak. She’s angry at all men. She got me thinking about myself in terms of the things that I’ve experienced at the negotiation table and in business as a whole. Whether unwanted sexual advances in the middle of a negotiation, a guy grabbing my leg and feeling my thigh, or a guy trying to take off my wedding band in a negotiation. The garbage that I’ve experienced is insane. I’ve been in a lot of negotiation situations. A lot of women haven’t been in as many negotiation situations as I have.

One of the things that I hear from women when I’m talking to them is that part of why they don’t put themselves in negotiation situations is because they’re worried about this power dynamic. They automatically defer instead of standing up for themselves in the negotiation. The more I’ve worked with businesses that are run by people of color, I’m experiencing and hearing the same messages from them, which is why I wanted to have this conversation. Let’s talk about respect as a whole in our culture and what you’ve seen and what’s going on in the market or the universe around the subject of respect.

I’d like to go back to what you brought up down the road in this conversation. A lot of that has to do when you are somebody who is not in the populace of power and control. When you are not, you are taught to keep people happy. That is common. You are taught to make sure that you don’t say no to others, you don’t let people down. You don’t disappoint people. That’s a whole another area we can get into as we go into this conversation that has a lot to do with what you brought up. It has a major influence on that.

When we look back at what respect is, there are two major issues with respect that people either misunderstand or struggle with. The first is, what is respect? When I ask audiences, “What does it mean to feel respected?” It’s amazing how consistent the answers are, Christine. It doesn’t matter what age they are. It’s to be seen, be valued, and be heard for exactly who I am. It’s not my potential because my potential implies that I’m not good enough yet. You are basing this on my potential and not on who I am at this moment. Also, my best qualities. That means that I can’t truly be real in front of you because I can only be the best version of myself in front of you. You’re not honoring who I am and my full being. Some people teach all the time, “See people for their best points.” No. See them for exactly who they are and appreciate that.

Stop making it all about you. Click To Tweet

What you consider to be the struggles with them and the gifts of them, that wholeness is what we see in a human being. That is critically important for somebody to feel seen, valued, and heard. Those are keywords. When you flip the question and you say, “What does it feel like to be disrespected?” It is amazing how consistent it is to be invisible. It’s a horrible feeling to not matter, to not be good enough, and to not be valued. What’s sad about this conversation is a few years back, Harvard Business Review researched this and found that over 50% of employees did not feel respected by their leadership.

That is a mind-blowing statistic. I was talking to somebody who’s the head of HR. I used to be the head of HR for an IBM company. We were talking about the number one reason why employees leave companies is because of their leadership. They don’t feel respected and valued by their management.

What they also found in that research was that respect was the number one influencer on productivity, wellness, and retention. All these areas the company has cared deeply about, it was the number one influencer over pay, promotion, and recognition. That’s important for people to understand. This is an element, a foundation of the company no one’s talking about. If they’re talking about it, it’s only in the realm of, “Let’s not get sued for discrimination or harassment.” Here’s how I’ve seen it work out over the years. When you talk to people about respect, what they do is specifically categorize it to a topic.

Let’s say that their company represents a skyscraper. The skyscraper is their entire company. They’ll go, “Over here, we have a discrimination case.” That’s the seventeenth floor. The seventeenth floor has some problems with it. “Over here, we have an issue of sexual harassment.” That’s the eighteenth floor. That eighteenth floor has a problem. What they’re missing are the cracks that are coming from the foundation. The cracks aren’t starting on the 17th or the 18th floor, they’re starting at the foundation and you’re noticing them on the 17th and 18th floor. What happens is nobody reacts to this topic until major walls are crashing around those floors on the 17th and 18th when we could have been reinforcing the foundation from the beginning.

What are companies doing about it? You’re right. I’m flabbergasted by it and I don’t even know why I’m. Maybe because I’m a small business owner, that respect is tangible. When you’ve got a small team of people, there’s got to be respect. Otherwise, you’re not going to continue working together. The bigger the more you get away from that small group, the larger your organization gets. Here’s an example. I was at a speaking event and this guy gets up in the speaking. He gets super excited talking about his company culture. He’s like, “When we hire people, everyone comes in and they go through hell week.” He’s pumped about this, “When we bring and hire somebody from this resource, we’d have none of those people who’ve ever made it through hell week.” He’s proud of this. I sat in my chair and recoiled. Every person around me was like, “This is not good.”

I had a friend of mine from business school. Scott O’Neil is the CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers. He was on and he was talking about this. He’s a younger guy. When he when Scott was younger and he was running companies, he’s like, “I was an alpha. If I saw you in the hallway, I’d grill you about what you did and you better be able to stand and deliver.” He said, “I then started working with a coach,” a friend of his mom’s. She said to him, “Scott, an alpha culture is not an effective culture.” When I think about this young man that I saw getting all pumped up about how his culture has this hell week thing and he’s won some awards and they threw up a diversity award, as soon as I hear hell week, that the diversity award is bullcrap. When I hear hell week, there is no respect in that culture. What’s your reaction to what Scott said?

I’m a former athletic coach. I coached high school swimming and diving and we won a state title. I am grateful to have been the coach of the year in the state at the time. I get the alpha personality and experience. What we always valued was the team. Truly understanding the team is cheering each other on, supporting each other, and being there for each other. I’ve always found that to be the critical and essential element to true greatness amongst teams. Teams that are built on the alpha will collapse sooner or later because they’ll eat each other alive. They might get to the championship but they aren’t going to stay up there because they’re going to eat each other alive.

IVZ 43 | Culture Of Respect
Culture Of Respect: It’s a matter of pulling back and going, “What could I have done better there? How could I have handled that more effectively?”


Let me give you an example. My high school swimmers, the team, would go to the side of the pool and line both sides. We had a big team. When our swimmers were swimming a long-distance event, it would be called the 500 free. It was a five-minute race. They would line in the event and do these ridiculously goofy cheers for the entire five minutes of the race while cheering on their teammates. Other teams would be like, “Can you cut that out?” I say, “Why would you like to tell my athletes they shouldn’t be having fun cheering on each other?” “It’s annoying.” I said, “What if every team was doing that? Wouldn’t that be fun, everybody was cheering each other on like that?” That’s when people you know have your back. You’ll do anything for those people. Even if you don’t like them, they have your back. That’s a difference in respect and like. You’ll still have each other’s back.

How are we building that organization where we’re cheering each other on? When I’ve had members on my team that work with me, we celebrate every little victory. We’re like, “Woo.” Even in our emails, we would type, “Woo.” You want to be celebrating each other, too. That’s important. None of us are perfect at that. You will have moments where you disrespect other people and you have moments where you get disrespected. It will happen because we’re human beings. We are not robots. The key is are we acknowledging that? Are we being intentional, trying to improve that, and work on that?

I want to touch on that. You’re right, there are times when we’re disrespectful. Is respect something that I get to decide whether I’m being respectful or not or is it in the eyes of the person who’s impacted?

It is in the eyes of the person being impacted. Otherwise, you might tell me you meant to be respectful. If that person is not respected, you didn’t accomplish it. What I always find interesting, Christine, is when people go, “That’s in the eye of the beholder.” Why did you say it? Why did you waste your breath saying the words you said? Why did you choose the reaction you chose? It’s because you had an intention behind it. If your intention failed, that’s on you. We’re all going to have that happen.

It’s a matter of pulling back and going, “What could I have done better there? How could I have handled that more effectively?” That’s a language you and I are aware of, versus, “What did I do bad or good?” “What could have been more effective? What was not effective? What worked and what didn’t work?” We can continually be a better leader and more effective teammate along that path. I’ll give you an exact example that happened with me and a teammate of mine. We’re on the phone and I was all excited. You know my personality, Christine.

You’re amazing.

Not all people love that energy all the time. Thank you. I do appreciate that. She suddenly says, “Mike, can I call you back in a minute?” I’m like, “I’m out of the blue.” I thought, “What did I say?” Immediately, that’s what went to my mind. I said, “Sure.” We hang up the phone. A minute goes by, there’s no call and I start to go, “What did I say?” I’m trying to replay in my mind, “What did I say? What did I do? I cannot figure this out.” Five minutes go by and she hasn’t called back and I’m like, “No.” You know how this works, the brain starts spinning.

If respect is earned, then somebody else gets to decide when you’re respected and when you’re not. Click To Tweet

Twenty minutes later, she calls back and she goes, “Let’s continue.” I went, “I would like to back up because I might have said something or did something uncomfortable.” She goes, “Mike, there’s no way you could have realized what you did.” Right away, I was like, “Maybe I should have so that I don’t do it in the future. What did I do?” She goes, “It’s nothing you did intentionally or not intentionally. In the past when I’ve worked with certain people, when they get excited like that, they bulldoze the conversation and everybody else in its path. You weren’t doing that, Mike, but your excitement triggered me back to people who had done that to me in the past. It triggered all these emotions and I needed to step away.”

“There’s no way you could have known that, Mike.” This person is doing everything they can to relieve me of any guilt, shame, or even responsibility about what happened. She says, “There’s no way you could have known that triggered me.” I said, “I should have thought before to ask you what are things that have triggered you in the past that you’re comfortable sharing with me, so I’m consciously and intentionally not triggering you going forward.”

That whole exchange, there’s awareness on your end and her end, and then there’s that acknowledgment that you could have done something, you may have been able to do something better. That leads to the question, what if somebody is not sure what their triggers are? That naming and labeling thing that you and I also are familiar with. What if somebody has not spent a lot of time understanding what those emotions are that hasn’t had the opportunity to name and label them and can’t answer that question?

Give yourself love and compassion to go down that journey. Maybe that journey isn’t alone. Maybe you talk with a therapist. Maybe you work with somebody, a coach, who can help you dive into that journey to see what’s showing up at that moment. There’s usually a historical point that is revealing itself in those moments that are from our past that is showing up. It might be multiple points and it’s been stacking. When we blow, it’s because this stack is huge. It’s gotten massive.

I had a different experience where I let someone go and it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced as the owner of a business. This person was emotionally distraught that I became emotionally distraught about how that showed up for them. It’s like, “What did I do?” Everybody around me was like, “You handled that professionally. You did that correctly.” I was still feeling guilty. One person said, “Mike, you were not seeing that person reacting to you letting go. You are seeing that person react to the last six jobs that let them go. That was all showing up in front of you at the moment you let them go. There’s so much history there that you have nothing to do with.”

This is a key element for all of us to remember, stop making it all about us. If we’re going to understand respect, we have to understand what the other person carries. What burdens are they carrying? What pain are they carrying? What trauma are they carrying? What history is there? We then can understand that it’s not about us and we can intentionally be our best selves to be the most supportive person we can be at that moment.

There are going to be times where we can do nothing to make them feel better and that’s not our place to be the person who makes them feel better all the time. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. We have to go, “That’s not my place. Stop acting like I’m all that and I should be perfect and this should be easy.” Life doesn’t work that way. We’re giving difficult news, bad news. Negotiation can be that. There are times where it’s not going to be friendly and loving because not everybody’s happy with the conversation. It can still be based on respect.

IVZ 43 | Culture Of Respect
Culture Of Respect: Efficiency is honoring the room and respecting everybody in the room. That’s creating the most efficient environment for us to have the right culture.


I say this in every episode because my view is that negotiation is a conversation about a relationship and you cannot win a relationship but you can get more value out of it. The thing that’s resonating, and there’s so much here that is important, is understanding. I talk a lot about how important it is to take time to deeply and authentically understand your counterpart. A lot of people don’t spend any time thinking about their counterparts.

All they do is think about all the things wrong their partner does. They think about all the things that needed to be fixed in their partner. They think about their partner. That’s the only little add-on I want to lead there.

There are tons of research around this. When people sit down at the negotiation table, people come into a negotiation believing that their counterpart is out to get them and are going to take advantage of them. They go into the negotiation with his incredible lack of trust and that makes it harder for them to respect because they automatically believe, “I’ve got to be in protection mode.” That makes that even more challenging for them. I love the example that you gave with the woman around your awareness of saying, “I could have done this better. I could have done something differently to be aware of what your triggers are.”

Let’s say they do something and she was trying to absolve you of responsibility for anything. What happens when we are disrespectful but the other person doesn’t tell us that we’re being disrespectful? How do we deal with that? How do we stay aware enough of ourselves to be able to be open? As our friend, Blair Dunkley, talks about, “Be curious enough about ourselves to acknowledge when we have done something that somebody feels disrespectful.” How do we do that?

It’s asking, “Does this feel right?” The moment I know something is off, either I conquered someone, which is off, that’s not a relationship word. I conquered is a red flag. I got them is a red flag. These are all red flag language and/or it didn’t feel right. It’s pausing and looking in the mirror going, “Where was my mind? What were the choices I was making? What was my intention at that moment? What choices did I make after that intention?” Usually, something is going to reveal itself. I have what’s called the 9 Daily Displays of Disrespect. It’s nine things we all do. Not everybody does it but everybody does some of them. Sometimes you look at those and go, “Was it one of them? Are they there? Is one of them there?” That makes it easier for us to evaluate and go, “There it was.”

I’ll give you a couple of examples. Was I the fixer? Was I trying to fix someone? Was I distracted? That’s another one. Was I unconsciously biasing age or identity? Was I bulldozing? Was I interrupting? Even when I interrupt you, I said, “May I.” I caught myself. I’m like, “I’m interrupting.” Was I degrading them even without verbal? Was I rolling my eyes in my head? Even if not outside. Was I not responding, which can feel horrible? Was I acting like a dictator? Was I denying access? Those are the nine. You start to look at them and go, “Was I doing any of those nine? If I wasn’t, were they? Was I not comfortable bringing that up to the conversation?”

That leads to the next piece, what do you do when somebody is treating you with disrespect whether it’s at the negotiation table, at a restaurant, or in your own family? I remember one Christmas time and we were flying home to see my parents in Montana from Boston and they canceled the flight on Christmas Eve. We got to the airport on Christmas Day and they canceled the flight again. There was a guy that was practically jumping over the counter screaming at the person behind the desk. It was unbelievable, the lack of respect that he had. This poor person had no control over the situation whatsoever.

Here’s a great question to ask CEOs: Does your company have a culture where employees don't have to carry the burden of disrespect? Click To Tweet

I stood there and I watched it. The flight attendant at the desk had this stoic face on and you could tell she had put this mask over her to shut down and try to create this impenetrable fortress by which his screaming and yelling in her face wasn’t going to impact her. You knew that it was going to impact her. You see it with customer service people all the time. If I have a customer service issue, I get on the phone and the first thing I say is, “I am not mad at you. I’m upset. I’m angry at the company. I’m angry at what the company’s policies are but I’m not mad at you. I appreciate you for being in this role to give me an outlet for my anger but it’s not directed at you.”

I love that, Christine. That rocks. There are many times where I’ve said to somebody, “This isn’t about you. This is based on the history before this call.” That’s what you’re referencing. I love your language. That’s specific. There are two elements to this. Let’s talk specifically about negotiation. Often, in negotiations, there are multiple people on both sides as you are fully aware. What we first say is, “How do you teach the person being disrespected in the room to stand for themselves?” That’s the least likely person to speak up in that situation. They’re the ones being shot at. They’re the least likely to stick their head up. That is a big mistake that companies make all the time. How do we teach that person to speak up for themselves?

How about you speak up to the person who’s disrespecting others in the room to say that you will not stand by for that. The person being shot at knows they have a team that supports them. That’s the first move. Usually, people do the reverse, “How do I empower?” They don’t seem strong in those moments. What have you done to show strength in those moments? You sat by while they’re being shot at and you had no risk. You could have easily intervened at that moment and that’s the key. How are we intervening for those who are being disrespected? That’s where it starts.

Let’s say the person’s name is Jesse and he was being disrespected. If I want Jesse to feel safe to exercise their strength and to speak out and declare their boundaries, they’re way more likely to do that if they know I’ve got their back and that they’re not on an island. If they see me supporting them, they might be more likely to go, “Yes. Thank you,” and continue the conversation versus nobody supporting them and thinking, “If I fight back, they don’t even have my back. My own people don’t have my back, so why bother?” That’s what starts to happen in our heads, “Why bother?” That is a problem.

I’ve had CEOs do that with me and it was that exact example. We have one woman on our board of directors and there are a couple of guys that bulldozed over her when she talks. I wanted to empower her to speak up when that happens. Let’s say their names are John and Henry. “John and Henry, will you please let Julie finish? I would love to hear Julie’s finishing thought.” How often have you said it? He was like, “I don’t think I’ve ever said that.” The tone has never been set but that’s not okay behavior. That’s the tone that needs to be set.

Notice what I didn’t do. I didn’t go, “You are disrespecting Julie right now.” That’s not what I did. I said, “Can we let Julie finish? It’s genuine and respectful. It’s not done to humiliate or embarrass you but it is done to respect Julie’s perspective, insight, and brilliance and we want to hear that.” They might go, “I knew where Julie was going.” You might have known where Julia is going for the next five seconds, that’s true. We don’t know where Julie was going to turn and twist ten seconds after that. We don’t know that. I would like to see what twists and turns might be coming. That’s the argument.

I still have to be careful, “Can I interrupt?” I know that about myself. I need to be conscious of it. It doesn’t mean it won’t show up at times. We have to be cautious. I was talking to my friend about this and he said, “I call it truly efficient communication because it quickens the conversation.” This is a good friend. I said, “How does your wife feel about that?” He said, “She hates it.” He would go on and have a conversation with her about it. He would come back to me and say, “She hates it.” She goes, “Of course, you were defending that style because that’s what you do to her husband.” That never feels good when you’re the one that’s being done to. We both had to remember it.

IVZ 43 | Culture Of Respect
Culture Of Respect: A lot of people fear being fired. The biggest mistake that you can make is coming from a place of privilege and going “you must always stand for integrity.”


I came up with a quote, “Efficiency is lost when harm is caused.” If whatever you think you’re doing is for efficiency and it’s doing harm, it isn’t efficient because it’s harming the culture. That’s not efficiency. Efficiency is about making things operate better, more effectively, and not less. It’s not about saving time, it’s about higher effectiveness and that’s what we want in efficiency. Efficiency is honoring the room and respecting everybody in the room, that’s creating the most efficient environment for us to have the right culture.

What’s coming to mind for me is, I was in a meeting with a company with one of my clients and it was a big meeting, it was a big sales team, and it was a mix of generations. There were 4 or 5 Millennials. The head of sales gets up and he’s a Gen X-er on the upper end of Gen X and he starts railing against Millennials. I probably didn’t handle it as effectively as I could have. He was going off about, “Millennials this and Millennials that.” I have three Millennial daughters and I get defensive about my Millennials. I love the Millennial generation.

They were also all women in that group. He threw some gender things in there as well. I asked him, “Could we move off of this generational conversation because it’s not effective? It’s not contributing positively to the outcome of this meeting.” He was super taken aback by that because no one had ever called him out on it. He was the leader of the organization. He was at a higher level than I was because I was a consultant there. I was okay calling him out in public on it because it’s like, “If nobody’s willing to stand up in a meeting and say, ‘Your behavior is making me uncomfortable and it’s inappropriate,’ then nothing is going to happen.” That’s the story that’s coming up in my mind when you’re sharing that.

I’ve seen that lack of respect happen when it comes to talking about generations, gender identity, race, and many different things. Even now, I’m not going to call it reverse but there’s a whole conversation around white men. There’s a shift in what that means. I hear some people talk about white men and it’s like, “That’s no more effective than what you think is being said about race and gender identity.” It’s all the same thing. It doesn’t make that any more right than it is in the reverse. What are your thoughts on that?

There’s are a couple of things we need to understand. I want to back up when you said that you stood up to that. They had never seen that in their company. It might be because it’s not safe to in that company. I don’t know that company. One of the things I have to be cautious of, especially as a CEO of my own company, is the privilege that I don’t fear being fired. A lot of people who are in these rooms fear being fired. I don’t know their financial circumstances, so the biggest mistake that I can make is coming from a place of privilege and going, “You must always stand for integrity and it’s a must.”

I’m telling them how to live their lives and what they must do. They don’t know how they’re going to feed their family without the next two weeks of checks. That could be a C-Suite person who’s overextended their financial situation. Whenever you say that, people assume you’re talking to the person who got hired at the lowest pay level in the company. That could be a C-Suite person who’s freaking out and going, “We’re in such trouble right now that I can’t afford to take any risk here. Therefore, I cannot stand up to this environment right now.” That’s the story playing in their head. That’s the reality in their head.

We have to be careful of even assuming. I should be able to say this, Christine. You should be able to speak up for yourself. I don’t know everything that is going on in that situation and your life for me to be arrogant enough to think, “This works for everybody and it should work for you. You should do what I do.” This becomes a pivotal point of discussion and understanding. I can teach you everything right to do but I don’t know your history. I don’t know the present tense situation that could stop you from speaking or standing for yourself.

If you know everyone deserves respect then it starts with you. Click To Tweet

I want you to because I love you and I don’t need to know you to treat you with love, so I want you to and yet, it might not happen for a multitude of reasons. Without me digging way deeper, I don’t know all the circumstances. When it comes to stereotyping, which is what you’re bringing up there, any bias is not healthy when we’re trying to understand people because it comes from a place of certainty, not curiosity, which is what we talked about. If I’m going to be curious, I have to be curious to you as the individual, not to the container you present yourself in.

That’s awesome.

When I’m on stage, I will acknowledge that sometimes. I will say, “The container I present myself in gets treated differently than other containers in this room.” That’s sad and horrific. I can name some examples of containers that get treated differently when I’m in those situations. That’s the problem. Are you talking to a container or you’re talking to an individual? An individual requires curiosity for me to understand you, know you, and see where you’re coming from. A container is cold, it’s an object. I can treat you without feeling and caring. I always say, “Lead with love.” To me, that means to lead with respect and mutuality. This is a mutual experience and I want it to be mutually rewarding. It goes back to what you talked about in the beginning. This is not me trying to win or conquer, that’s not how relationships work. This is about building a mutually wonderful relationship.

When somebody finds themselves in a situation where they are the one being disrespected, maybe they’re being demeaned in the environment that they’re in, maybe there’s even some physical abuse, whether it’s in a personal relationship and I’ve seen it in professional relationships. What are some of the things somebody can do to overcome some of that? If I’m doing business and somebody is a bully, I’ll take my ball and go home.

There are plenty of nice people to do business with in the world. I don’t need to do business with bullies. There are a lot of people who, because of the nature of their job or their role, may feel that they don’t have the freedom or the flexibility to take their ball and go to a different playground. What do we tell those people? How do we support them in this quest for respect in a negotiation situation where they feel like they don’t have it?

It starts with one concept. Do you believe respect is earned or given? Many people out there believe respect is earned, which means you are into a power hierarchy play system. If respect is earned, then somebody else gets to decide when I’m respected and when I’m not, which means I now have to play their game to get that respect. There’s nothing respectful in that whole concept. As you say it out loud, it sounds like a lot of controlled authoritarianism. Yes, it does because it is. Whenever somebody says, “Respect is earned,” by who? Who chooses? “My boss does.” When I’m the boss, I get to choose whether people get respected or not but the boss above me decides. Do you see how ridiculous this control system is versus, “I’m always going to give you respect because you are a fellow human being.” Whether you earn my admiration is a different ball game.

That’s powerful. Talk more about that.

IVZ 43 | Culture Of Respect
Culture Of Respect: Any bias is not healthy when we’re trying to understand people because it comes from a place of certainty, not curiosity.


You can earn raises, recognitions, awards, accolades, and all of those things. Respect is given. I can choose to admire you for all the accomplishments you’ve created and that’s awesome. That’s admiration. I look up to you, that’s what we say. Maybe I see you as a mentor. That’s not respect. Respect is, “I give you that because you’re a human being. I want to treat you as somebody who matters. I see you and that I value you.” If you’ve accomplished nothing and I don’t look up to you, in fact, maybe you look at them and think, “There can be so much more if they applied themselves.” I’m still going to want to stop and go, “Is that me approaching with respect or judgment that’s negative and condescending?” That allows me to pause and go, “How am I looking at them with respect? If it’s not positive, how am I coming at this with respect?” That’s one part.

If I know that everyone deserves respect, it starts with me. If I have to earn it, then I will find all the things I did wrong that caused that person to be that abusive to me. I’m more likely to rationalize why they did what they did because I didn’t do the right thing to earn their love or their respect. We want to be cautious by first knowing, “I deserve respect,” so does every human being. That starts with me deserving respect. I am not getting it and therefore, this is not healthy. That language is that pattern right there, “I am not getting respect and therefore, this is not healthy.” I’m saying that out loud, “This is not healthy.”

The next comment is, “Is this even safe?” There’s a difference between comfortable and safe and Blair Dunkley gets into that. It might be uncomfortable but there’s no threat. There’s no harm. If it’s unsafe, that means there’s harm about to occur or already occurring potentially. It doesn’t have to be physical harm. We all know that emotional harm can last way longer than the trauma of physical harm. When I’m saying it does, it can, physical harm, intellectual harm, emotional harm. What’s happening in this situation? I deserve to be safe and respected.

If either of those things are not there, I deserve not to have to carry this burden all on my own shoulders to figure it out. That’s the next step. Knowing that my shoulders don’t have to carry this burden, I can reach out to others who can help take this burden off my shoulder who also understand how important it is for me to be treated with respect. I can reach out to associations, agencies, and crisis centers. I often work with crisis centers for domestic violence or sexual assault who can help me take this journey and not have to try to do it all on my shoulders. This is critically important. Am I in a company where the HR will take this off my shoulders? It’s a great question to ask CEOs, “Does your company have a culture where employees don’t have to carry the burden of disrespect?”

That’s a powerful question. I’m thinking about the companies that I’ve worked in. I don’t think any of those companies can answer that question affirmatively.

It’s traumatic. It talks about what’s lacking in our culture. They go where there’s safe space. Are you? Because we say we’re safe, it doesn’t mean we’re safe. What we should mean in those environments is, “Are we safe” “Are we comfortable?” It should be. We want a place where I can be vulnerable and open. I always tell people never tell a room that you’re in a safe space right now because you don’t get to dictate that. You don’t know what somebody else in that room is going to do when they leave the room. You can request for this to be a safe space for what we say is here but you also have to be honest and say, “I can’t guarantee it because I can’t control anybody in this room.” Know that when you share something, “My goal is for this to be a place where you can share openly and honestly and it stays in this room. I hope we will honor that. I can’t guarantee it.” That’s way more honest than, “We’re in a safe space,” because you can’t promise that.

To your point, you never know where somebody is coming from. You don’t know where they’re at, at that moment in time and what’s going on outside of the situation in which you are encountering this person, so you never know. They’re going to make that determination about safety for themselves.

Be conscious of how you’re showing up in the room. Click To Tweet

Christine, one of the things that people will often bring up around this topic is the whole idea of how do you not trigger people. There’s no 100% way not to trigger another human being. We have to be honest about that. What we can do is, “Am I being intentional in my words to reduce the risk of triggering someone?” That’s a choice I can make. I cannot guarantee I will never trigger someone. I don’t know the word that might trigger them.

It could be a word that in my vocabulary would never be triggering but because of something that happened in the past like the call I described with the rock star team member I had, I didn’t know my energy would be it but it was a real thing. You don’t know. That’s why I’m asking people, “Those I work with, I want you to be comfortable being able to share with me any triggers that you know of. I can be more intentional in trying to stay away from those, so you have a more comfortable and safe environment to work in.”

What you’re talking about is not difficult stuff. It doesn’t sound like it’s difficult stuff. These are things that we can add to our universe that are relatively easy to add that don’t create a huge burden for us but have the ability to expand the quality of our relationships in every aspect of our life.

Imagine saying to your spouse or partner, “How are the ways that I trigger you when I say it or what attitude I bring that right away you’re intense, that tension shows up or the snapping shows up.” I’ll give you mine. I’ll give you most people’s. This is one that most people have. Maybe you have it too, Christine. I have it. If I’m hungry and overtired, watch out. If I’m hungry or overtired, I’m going to snap more and I’m going to have a short fuse. That doesn’t mean to an extreme but it’s not my best self. If people go, “Can you give us an example?” I’m like, “I gave you two.” Here’s one in the work environment. “I’m operating on a parameter that we’re under fire. That doesn’t feel like a real fire but I have to act like it’s a fire.” That triggers a lot of people.

Here’s another massive trigger and I’ve done this one. You walk in the room and go, “Here’s what we’re going to do. What do you think about that?” “Why does it matter? You said that we’re going to do it.” You’re looking for affirmation because you already said it’s going to happen without our input but now you want our input versus, “This is going to happen. What are the problems you see with that so we can prepare for that?” That’s a different question to, “What do you think of that?” It sounds like I’m looking for praise, get excited, or argue with me, which isn’t healthy either to argue. Bringing up concerns can be healthy. Bringing up, “What are struggles we could have with this?” That helps us plan for the future. Those can be good language points. It’s being conscious of how we’re showing up in the room and that’s what we’re talking about here. How am I choosing to be intentional in how I show up in this relationship?

Mike, this has been amazing. I could keep talking about this topic. We’ve scratched the surface. There’s so much, especially negotiation for a lot of people. I’ve been doing negotiations remotely for many years. One of the things that’s nice about being virtual in negotiation is I know that I don’t have to deal with some of the physical components of certain relationships. The two-dimensional world has a higher degree of safety and comfort in many cases. I have been hearing this from a lot of people and it happened when I was at this event, guys coming up and calling me honey and all these things.

I did not miss this stuff. I’m out of practice a little bit after a year. This conversation is important and I love what you said about not having the focus be on empowering the person necessarily. We want to do what we can to help build that person up but empowering others to be allies and to stand up when behaviors are out of line when disrespect is being shown. What you do in the market and what you do is important. I’m honored to have you in my world and I appreciate you. I’m grateful to have you on the show.

Thank you for having me on the show. The more allies that are in that room, the more the characters of John and Henry in the room who were overbearing, don’t survive because the room does not tolerate that. I have a good friend who speaks on accountability, leadership. Sam is like a brother to me. He says that the moment our values are not honored and lived in the company and they’re not practiced regularly, they’re lies. They’re a company built on lies. In the boardroom, if one of your core values is respect in the workplace and people have to act like that, the core values are lies. The company is living a lie. If you have people standing up to it, now it’s not a lie. Now the one doing it is the exception. The norm is not to do it and it’s easier to go to those people. No matter how rockstar performance they are, the harm they’re causing everywhere else is not in line with the company’s values.

Mike, how do people find you? To everybody reading, you’ve got to connect with Mike. If you are running a company, he will be a lifeblood for your organization. He’ll do many positive things in your organization. Mike, how do people get in touch with you?

There are three easiest ways. One is our website, CenterForRespect.com. The other option is to call us, (800) 329-9390. The last one is you reach out to me personally, [email protected]. I will look forward to engaging in those conversations.

That’s great. Mike, thanks for sharing how people can reach you and get in touch with you. You have a gift for the audience, which I’m super excited about and I can’t wait to get it.

I mentioned those 9 Displays of Daily Disrespect and we’ll be happy to share that. It’s a little simple PDF of a graphic of what the nine are so people can be more alert to themselves. They might not even fully understand them when they get them but it’s going to give them a vibe that they’re going to understand quickly. If they want to dive deeper and go, “What’s the alternative to these behaviors?” That’s what we do with companies. We help them switch from those displays of disrespect to making daily choices for respect. There’s a counter behavior to each form of disrespect that we can all choose. They can switch from a negative to a positive.

Thank you so much. I can’t wait to get that myself. I’m looking forward to that. Thank you so much for being here again, Mike. I’m honored to have you. To everyone reading, as always, thank you so much for sharing your most valuable resource with us, which is your time. I appreciate you so much. I look forward to the next episode of In the Venn Zone. Remember, negotiation is nothing more than a conversation about a relationship and you cannot win a relationship but you can get more value out of it. Happy negotiating. Until next time, have a great day everyone. Cheers.

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About Mike Domitrz

IVZ 43 | Culture Of RespectMike Domitrz is known for the impact his programs, training, and publications have made across the world for parents, teenagers, families, educational institutions, the US military, organizations, and the media. He is one of the leading experts for transforming our sexual culture to being built on consent and respect – discussing sexual decision-making, sexual harassment, healthy relationships, asking first, respect, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors of sexual assault.

His passion, high energy, and interaction along with the ability to share powerful emotional moments while giving audiences realistic “How To” SKILLS to implement in their lives is what separates Mike’s message from other authors and experts. He tackles difficult subjects such as sexual assault while putting the audience at ease. Mike is a unique combination of Provocateur and Advocate.