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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

One of the most famous R&B songs in history preached about respect. But no matter how many times Aretha spells it out, we tend to forget that it’s a two-way street: You can’t demand it and not give it.

We teach our kids to respect rules and laws; we show them how to respect people and cultures; we even encourage them to respect themselves.

And yet we fail miserably in one key area. We rarely educate young people about the simple courtesy of respecting another person’s time.

It’s the narcissistic underbelly of the modern world. Our time is valuable, but everyone else’s? Not so much.

Customers sit on hold interminably, and phone calls not only go unanswered (gotta screen everything, right?), they’re not returned. Texts, emails, and social media messages are ignored for hours or days.

By this point you may be wondering what this has to do with building a better student. Well, this column is about helping young people to become the best version of themselves, and that’s not limited to the classroom. Students need to know that people prefer to work with someone who shows a respect for their time. We teach professional skills that will serve students in life, but this particular component is just as important as balancing the books.

In the last year I’ve stopped doing business with two companies because they showed complete disrespect for my time. That’s a direct link between their arrogance and lost company revenue.

It’s a competitive world, and becoming more so each year. Students who want to rise above the crowd need to grasp every advantage they can. That includes sending a message to network connections and to potential clients that their time is honored and respected.

What’s interesting is that this advantage takes no special talent and no extensive training. It’s what used to be considered common courtesy; the fact that it’s no longer common can give an edge to a bright young mind.

The formula is easy: when someone sends you an electronic message, answer as quickly as possible; if you’re able to, answer your calls instead of screening; and if you make plans, fulfill them – people who consistently cancel at the last minute develop a reputation for irresponsibility. And it’s rude.

By the way, one secondary benefit to this prompt attention is that it saves time in the long run. Sending calls to voice mail means having to track that person down later instead of dealing with it right away.

It’s all about respecting other peoples’ time. If a student or young business associate shows an aptitude for doing that, they stand out from their competition.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty two years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit foundation that helps young people embrace the idea that Smart Is Cool. More info at www.DomTesta.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their children to be the best version of themselves.