The Water Bearers: The Profound Importance of Respect

Recently, the head of an organization described his contractors’ support with these words: “Contractors carry our water.” His tone was soft and conveyed complete respect. The life-giving and spiritual aspect of that metaphor was moving to hear.

Years ago, the head of another organization spoke of contractor support with contempt: “Contractors are like pigs at the trough.” The room, which was filled with a mix of employees and contractors, fell silent.

These two examples show the consequences of the attitudes we hold. In the second example, it’s clear that those in the room were upset by the comment. In the first example, the comment was heard and taken in as “life-giving.”

And hence, the importance of an attitude of respect and consideration for Others—however broadly or narrowly you define the set or subsets of those who are not Us. That could be other divisions, functional groups within our organization, clients, or suppliers.

Why is an attitude of respect and consideration so vital? First, those around us, without even being consciously aware of it, are listening for it.

Exactly how deeply do we listen? As deeply as our biological drive to survive! Many books in the fields of neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, and evolution theorize that the Golden Rule, which incorporates reciprocity and consideration, is rooted in nature and survival. According to Dr. Donald Pfaff, head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior at Rockefeller University, “The Golden Rule is so ingrained in our social behavior as to be intellectually invisible.”

Imagine, then what it would be like to set the tone where your beliefs embrace Others as water bearers? What conversations would take place? How would things be resolved when there are problems? What improvements or productivity would be inspired with this mindset?

To some, you are the Water Bearer. And there are others who are the Water Bearers for you. Regardless the role, an attitude of respect and consideration is a graceful, powerful way to lead and to achieve.

U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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