Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, you may sometimes find that you "don't get no respect." In Rodney's comedy routine, disrespect was amusing. But in real life it fills us with indignation.

Our typical response is sarcasm or avoidance. Has such a reaction EVER made a difference in getting more respect from others? I doubt it.

Today I'm going to show you a better way to deal with disrespectful people who irk you, frustrate you, and drain you of energy.

HERE'S THE SECRET: When someone gets under your skin, do them a small favor or give them a small token gift. Here are some real-life examples:

* A divorced man, whose ex-wife played power games by impeding his relationship with the children, decided to try the small favor route. One day when he picked up the kids from her house he brought her a quart of gourmet-grade cherries. "I was at the farmer's market and saw these cherries, which I recall were one of your favorite treats," he said casually. "I know the market is far from your house, so I figured as long as I'm going to stop by here anyway, I would bring you a few."

* An employee whose boss was hypercritical made a point of bringing her a copy of a magazine article on antiques, a subject that the employee knew was the boss's hobby. As the employee walked by her desk he stopped briefly and gave her the article. "I read this piece in Newsweek last night, and thought I'd bring it in just in case you hadn't seen it," he said nonchalantly.

* A college student happened to be in the vicinity of a classmate who had participated in spreading a rumor about her. The classmate had just exclaimed that her cell phone battery was dead. The student pulled her own phone from her pocket and offered, "Here. Go ahead and use mine."

In all the above examples, the recipients of the gift or favor reacted with a puzzled expression, but nevertheless accepted the gesture. In two of the situations the recipients became more friendly later on. (Unfortunately, the hypercritical boss did not, but that's a subject for another article.)

When you first try the gift/favor approach, it won't feel right at all. The immature recesses of your mind (what I call the "inner brat") will NOT want to do it. It may even scold you for kissing up to someone who treated you with disrespect.

But your inner brat doesn't realize that you are not kissing up. You are taking charge, choosing to rise above the other person's hostility. This is the mark of a mature person, something the inner brat can't understand.

Here are some tips to make the gift/favor strategy even more powerful:

1. You don't have to act right away -- in fact sometimes it's more effective when you wait a while.

2. The gift or the favor must be very small. If it's too lavish, the other person might consider it a bribe or a manipulation. In the earlier example of the ex-wife, suppose the man had brought her some expensive perfume. In that case she could have easily assumed that he was just trying to control her.

3. Any favors that you do for this purpose must appear casual and incidental. Note that the man with the cherries told his ex that he noticed them while he was shopping at the farmer's market. He gave them to her at the same time that he was picking up his kids. He didn't make any special trips. When you present token gifts in such a casual manner, the recipient is less likely to feel manipulated.

4. Use this approach sparingly. If you do it too often, you may be viewed as patronizing or "kissing up." It's better to save it for infrequent little surprises.

As I mentioned earlier, this approach does not work 100% of the time. But even when it doesn't, you can still reap a benefit. Because you choose to respond with kindness and consideration, you will remain calmer and feel more in control over the situation. And, as an added bonus, you may find that you are not so annoyed by the other person after all!

Author's Bio: 

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2004)

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