Learn to respect, not to fear

One day during a finance class of Prof David Wessels at Wharton, suddenly, the classroom door flew open and a hefty guy entered with a cardboard box in his hand.

The interrupted class sat in stunned silence — we were all staring at that guy.

But without missing a beat, he confidently asked, “Professor, did you or someone here order a pizza?”

Bewildered, the professor looked at us.

The pizza delivery guy realized his mistake. He said, “Oh, it must be some other classroom — sorry about that.” He then left the room, closing the door behind him.

What struck me was how confidently that guy talked to the professor, like an equal — no servility or any sense of social inequality. Despite the awkward situation, he showed zero nervousness.

This would probably never happen in India. If a pizza guy were to walk into an IIM classroom, he would have fumbled with embarrassment and left hastily.

Our social hierarchy subtly trains people to be submissive before a person in a superior position. And that erodes our confidence.

We have to learn to be respectful without being submissive. We need to inculcate that in our workplaces and in our society. And ideally, it has to start with our kids.

If a child is trained to be scared of the school principal, that mindset will never go.

Let us learn respect, not fear.

– Rajan

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