Eliza Doolittle, the main character in the Broadway musical "My Fair Lady," makes a salient point about respect when she tells a visitor: "The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a common flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a common flower girl and always will. But I know that I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering, because he always treats me like a lady and always will."

If you treat people like winners, they will act like winners. The secret is to find something to respect in everyone you deal with.

Conflict is all around us. Same with opinions. We may think we are accepting of others, but people see the world and all its issues differently. Are you respectful if someone has a different opinion from yours?

Look for common ground. Chances are that you have something in common. I have many friends with opposing viewpoints, but we have a mutual interest in something.

Being respectful is a valuable quality, both personally and professionally. It's important to treat people with courtesy and politeness.

It also helps to have an open mind and be willing to hear opposing opinions. Too many people want to cast judgment before they even hear an opposing point of view. Treat others how you want to be treated.

The word "courtesy" literally means "the way of the court." This means acting like you would in the king's court. Displaying the same actions and attitudes appropriate in the presence of royalty is a good guide for all our everyday dealings with others. Because when you treat others better than they are accustomed to being treated, their response is almost always positive.

You also need to be sensitive to the feelings of others. You might not even realize that your comments are hurtful. Words are powerful, so speak with kind words.

Being a good listener and giving people your full attention also is a must. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them.

And if you commit to something, follow through. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Bailing out is disrespectful.

Trust is a must. I am convinced that T-R-U-S-T is the most important five-letter word in business — not sales or money (or any other replaceable commodities). Trust can be fragile, especially in the workplace. Once it's broken, few companies, managers or employees ever win it back.

Don't gossip. The damage of gossip is not easily undone. So often the harm that gossip inflicts is irrevocable. And the gossiper's reputation takes a big hit, because others are concerned that you can't be trusted with their information.

Be inclusive. Try to involve everyone who wants to participate. Have you ever been in a group where you seem to be invisible, with others speaking about topics that don't involve you, and your presence is ignored? Don't put others in that position.

Consider this your chance to change your little corner of the world. Make your behavior a shining example for others to emulate. You won't have any regrets for showing respect.

Mackay's Moral: Respect — give it to get it.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.