How to lead… disrespectful people

Disrespect can come in many different forms. It may even be subtle. A slight wave of the hand to swipe aside your suggestion, picking up a phone call midway through your conversation, or even just out right insulting. Their actions aren’t enough to be dealt with as bullying (which we’ll cover in another article), but how can you not only manage, but turn around the behaviour of those who may regularly dismiss, humiliate, put-down or belittle?

1. Choose how you’re going to feel

It’s not nice when people act in a way that results in us feeling undermined, however the truth is no once can *make* you feel anything! You are ultimately the one in control of your own mood and emotions, it is always your choice to dwell on feeling anger or disrespect. If we are aware that the person isn’t doing it to bully us, then the chances are they’re doing it inadvertently and as a undesirable, unconscious side-effect of their behaviour. Don’t take it personally.

2. Choose how you’re going to act

If the above point is correct, and the person isn’t aware they’re being disrespectful, then it is unfair to assume they will change without loving but clear feedback. Choose the behaviour you’re gong to enact as a response to this person. Is it one of revenge or grace? One of one-up-man-ship or of prayerful support of them? Make time and room for the Holy Spirit to deal with any residing malice you may have towards them. Choose to put it behind you and focus on what’s in front.

3. Put them in your shoes.

Next time something happens, kindly and gently ask them to consider the scenario from your perspective. “Jim, can I ask you a moment to put yourself in my shoes and ask you to think how I might have felt when you called my idea stupid?” Be prepared to calmly express how it made you feel in case their empathy skills are lacking and they can’t imagine it. If there’s an awkward silence, or they get too defensive, simply use the line “Anyway, I’ve said my piece. Thanks very much, bye!”

4. Point out the pattern

Sometimes it’s good and right to confront at the time. Others it’s best to wait until the heat of the moment has died down. If their disrespect is becoming a pattern of their behaviour, then between episodes may be a good time to point out their recurring actions / attitudes. Giving three examples of times that you felt they were inappropriate is enough to show there is a track record without being too heavy handed.

Joel Preston

Joel Preston

Director at
Joel is the Director of Evangelism & Mission for British Youth for Christ. He had previously been involved in church-based youthwork for over 10 years and before that spent 4 years at a local Youth for Christ centre.

He specialises in delivering leadership and people management training in a ministry context and has taught for various organisations across the country, including SoulNet, Innovista, SWYM and Youthwork the Conference.
Joel Preston

Latest posts by Joel Preston (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.