Here at the Kantner Foundation, we know that young entrepreneurs like you are some of the hardest-working teens in the world. It’s not easy to build a successful business out of nothing. And it’s even harder while juggling school, college prep, and a social life! That’s why we feel it’s important you get the respect you deserve. From college applications to friendships to business, here’s how you can cultivate the qualities that others can’t help but respect.
Use your best manners when dealing with others. All others. Saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” starts you off on the right foot. But there’s more to common courtesy than the words you use.
Be mindful of someone else’s time. No matter the person, they are taking time out of their lives to engage with you. Don’t waste it, and don’t take advantage.
Speak up and make eye contact. No one feels good dealing with someone shifty-eyed or mumbling.
Finally, be especially kind to the “gatekeepers.” That means anyone who’s between you and what you want: receptionists, customer service representatives, waitstaff, and more. People who earn respect don’t need to put down others to feel good about themselves.
2. ACTIVE LISTENING
We’ve all been there: stuck in a conversation that seems destined to put you to sleep. Rather than spacing out and thinking of escape strategies, try active listening. Among other things, this means truly listening to what the other person is saying, not preparing for the next thing you’re going to say. Respond to their words so they know they are heard.
Ask clarifying questions if you’re not sure about something they said. Paraphrase what they said back to them to make sure you are both on the same page: “What I’m hearing is that you wish your company had a more professional-looking logo.”
Imagine that you’re pitching your idea to a potential investor. Would you feel good if that person kept looking over your shoulder, interrupting you with non-sequiturs, or cutting you off? Of course not. Show everyone you meet that you’re a person who cares, who pays attention, and who’s worthy of their respect.
3. TAKE CRITICISM
As a teen, your life is probably full of people who love to give you advice or tell you how to live your life. You may be completely burnt out on hearing about all the things you’re doing wrong or the things you should be doing with your life.
But young entrepreneurs who want to earn respect need to practice the fine art of taking criticism. Beyond grinning and nodding, try saying the following:
- “Thank you for the advice.”
- “I appreciate your concern.”
- “I’ll definitely think about what you said.”
- “That’s an interesting point.”
People – especially grown-ups talking to someone younger – love to feel like they are “helping” in some way.
But what if the advice or criticism you’re given isn’t really…good? Or applicable? Say those things anyway.
Later, consider the source, as well. Is this a person you respect or admire? Do they know what they are talking about? Is this piece of advice genuinely helpful to you?
The point is not to obey everything you’re told. It’s to make sure you don’t burn bridges by making others feel silly for trying to help.
4. HONOR BOUNDARIES
This is a two-way street. When dealing with others, make sure you respect the boundaries they’ve set up for themselves. This means being mindful of what time you text, call, or email them. (Not everyone likes to turn off their phones at night.) Don’t spam anyone. If they say they’ll get back to you in 3 or so days, give them 4 days before you reach out to make a gentle inquiry.
Conversely, set your own boundaries and politely enforce them. You don’t need to answer non-urgent texts right away. You don’t need to stay up all night responding to customer questions. And you certainly don’t need to say “yes” to every request made of you.
By setting your own boundaries, as well as respecting others’ boundaries, you show that your time is valuable and you recognize the value of others’ time, as well.
5. INSPIRE THROUGH ACTION
In other words, show that you mean what you say. If you start a recycling business for your town, don’t throw cardboard and metal cans into the regular trash. Those of you young entrepreneurs starting a babysitting business should always be kind and helpful to the little kids around you. Yes, even your siblings.
People may forget your website, your business, or even your name. What they won’t forget is how you behaved. Keep this in mind as you post on social media, act in public, and present yourself. Are you someone a parent would trust with their child?
6. SHOW CONFIDENCE
This one can be tough, especially if you are a teen making a pitch to a room full of potential investors. What can you do if you lack confidence?
First, there’ the old saying, “fake it ‘till you make it.” This doesn’t mean lying about what you can and can’t do. It means acting as if you can until you actually can. Practice thinking to yourself:
- “I can always find out.”
- “I’ll do the research.”
- “I can ask for help.”
- “I’m up for the challenge.”
- “The worst that can happen is I mess up and start over.”
Everyone respects someone who isn’t afraid to identify their weaknesses, so long as they are obviously working on them.
At the other end of the spectrum is the possibility of coming across as arrogant. For times when you’re unsure whether you’re being confident or arrogant, consider:
- Confidence means you know what you’re talking about. Arrogance comes from just wanting to talk.
- Confidence means acknowledging your mistakes. Arrogance comes from ignoring your mistakes.
- Confidence is positive. Arrogance is negative.
- Confidence means sharing credit and recognizing others’ accomplishments. Arrogance is selfish, jealous, petty, and refuses to take the blame.
A confident person is worthy of respect. An arrogant person is usually dismissed or ignored.
Earning respect is crucial to gaining success as a young entrepreneur. Once others respect you, they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say!
Young entrepreneurs in Florida may be eligible for a Kantner Foundation college scholarship. Click here to learn about what we have to offer and how to apply.