Respect…invites success for technical writers

Once, at the Kingdom of Kashi ruled by King Brahmadatta, the royal priest Devdutt thought, “The King respects me a lot. All this respect and honour that I get, I don’t know whether it is because of my knowledge or because of my virtue and morality. I should find about it.”

One day, while returning from the King’s court, when Devdutt was passing by the Treasury, he stopped at the treasury. He went inside, then silently picked up a coin and left.

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The Treasurer was surprised at this. He thought, “Why would a great person like Devdutt would pick up a coin from the Treasury without saying anything to anyone. If he picked a coin from the Treasury, then there must be some reason. Maybe, he was in hurry. That is why he didn’t say anything. He will tell me later.”

On the second day, Devdutt did the same thing. He didn’t say anything to the Treasurer. The Treasurer noticed this again. He remained patient and maintained silence. He thought, maybe even today, Devdutt didn’t have the time to tell him the reason.

On the third day, while passing by the Treasurer, Devdutt stopped and went inside. This time, he picked up a handful of gold coins. Now, the treasurer could not be patient and silent. He immediately called the soldiers and got Devdutt arrested.

Next day, Devdutt was presented in the King’s court. The Treasurer briefed the King. The courtiers were surprised that a great scholar was stealing from the King’s Treasury. The King got angry. He told Devdutt, “You have committed a great crime. Not only that, you also hurt our trust and faith. You will be punished for this.” The King called the soldiers and told them to cut all the fingers of Devdutt’ s hand as the punishment for his crime of stealing from the Treasury. After listening to the Kind, Devdutt smiled. Seeing Devdutt smiling, the King asked him, “Why are you smiling?”

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Devdutt said, “I didn’t steal money to become rich. I just wanted to know if you respected me because of my knowledge or my virtue. I tested that and today, I got my answer.
My knowledge is the same as before. But, in the last few days, the only thing that changed was my virtue. When I stole, my virtue was broken and because of that I am getting punished.”

The King understood the situation and freed Devdutt with due respect.

Moral: It is the virtuous behavior, which is the seed of respect and honour. 

What is respect? What does it mean?

The word respect originally comes from “respectus” which means “attention”, consideration, or regard. Possessing a Latin origin, it can be defined as “regard for or of a feeling of the value or greatness of an individual, an individual’s quality or capacity, or something considered as an appearance of an individual quality or capacity”.

Respect is a significant segment of both individual character and relational connections. It is an important component of both interpersonal relationships and personal identity. Feeling respected could be viewed as a fundamental need.

Respect is an idea that alludes to the capacity to esteem and honor someone else, both their words and activities, regardless of whether we don’t endorse or share all that the person does.
Respect is tolerating the other individual and making an effort not to disrespect them. Respecting someone else isn’t making a decision about them by their mentalities, practices, or contemplations. Respect isn’t expecting somebody to be something else.

Why Giving Respect is Important?

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Without respect, relational connections will be loaded up with struggle and disappointment. If we don’t regard others, they will not respect us, and if we don’t respect ourselves, we won’t be regarded by others either. It is important to have a sense of security. It is important to have the option to communicate without the fear of being judged, embarrassed, or oppressed.
Being conscious of others, cherished, and respecting ourselves builds our confidence, self-adequacy, psychological well-being, and prosperity.

‘As chairman, my main responsibility is to inspire respect.’

-JRD Tata

Most technical writers work in engineering-driven companies. In these companies, the engineers who use their talent to design and build commercially successful products are given the status of God, and they deserve it. Where do technical writers fit in such companies?

You often hear technical writers saying, “There’s just no respect out there.” No technical writer would like to hear that. It is true that in some organizations, technical writers may not be respected or valued. We all grudgingly admit that.

Documentation is an afterthought.

Engineers feel they can do a better job, only if they had the time.

They do not understand that technical writers are user advocates.

Technical writers are not invited to some meetings.

Project managers forget to include technical writers in status meetings.

Everyone wants documentation yesterday.

Have you heard the above statements from technical writers before? Sounds familiar….

In this scenario, what helps technical writers to succeed apart from communication and technical skills?


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No matter what your talent and ideas are, if you don’t have respect, your talent and ideas will never be recognized.

Feeling respected is something we sometimes take for granted because, most of the time, people treat each other with respect and kindness at work. But when someone doesn’t hold themselves to that standard and makes us feel insecure about our abilities, it can have a demoralizing effect on our attitude towards our job, and that can create a ripple effect throughout the company culture.

We’ve all no doubt had negative experiences with disrespectful coworkers or even toxic working environments that made us feel like we weren’t valued or treated fairly.

But if disrespectful behavior is a routine occurrence for you, something you have to contend with often at work, you’re working in a psychologically unsafe workplace. And no one should have to endure that.

On the other hand, if you had these mind-numbing, soul-crushing, just-to-pay-the-bills job moments and just want to escape this profession…think again. There may be other reasons too. It could be lack of awareness about technical communication. There may be certain myths, perceptions about technical communication. As technical writers, we need to invest time in creating awareness about technical communication and change these perceptions to eliminate disrespect. Educate your colleagues, peers, management, stakeholders and clients. Connect and engage with them. Use metrics to change perceptions and emphasize the value added by technical writers. With the renewed understanding, there is a probability that your efforts will be recognized and respected. You will fall in love with your profession again.

“Respect” is a healthy professional regard for what your colleagues bring to the table.

Respect ensures that your voice is heard.

Your opinions are considered.

Your reasoning and experience are valued.

Respect serves as a basis for solidarity and a sense of shared purpose.

You may not like a coworker, but if you respect them, you can work with them.

Respect makes your colleagues willing to devote time and resources to provide support beyond mere obligation.

Respect helps you get your work done.

How to get respect and maintain it?

Because it’s conferred to you by others, respect derives from how others perceive you. You have very little control over some things that affect how others perceive you. I don’t want to suggest that we’re helpless and doomed as technical writers.

Technical writers can influence how others see them in powerful ways to earn and keep respect.
During my career, I have heard a lot of technical writers complaining about lack of respect. I have also observed how others react to it. What I have learnt is: venting is necessary. You may not gain anyone’s respect with your ability to grin and bear it. But, it is guaranteed you will lose respect if you develop a reputation as a whiner, especially if it is about issues that management doesn’t care about.

For problems that hinder your work or delivery, clearly state the issue and suggest solutions. Even if your solutions are not used, you’ve demonstrated a willingness to work through an issue in a constructive way rather than simply whine. Be sure to direct your complaint at someone who can act on it. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your coworker’s patience and good will, and losing their respect.

Don’t be apologetic

Don’t apologize for your experience or for your informed opinions. You are being paid because your expertise is valued.

To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.


Being self-deprecating, false modesty, and anxiety will not help earn any respect points from coworkers and superiors. The moment those half-hearted words come out of your mouth, your audience just switches off.

Always accept a mistake

When you make a mistake, apologize immediately. Don’t give excuses and be defensive.
Apologizing for a mistake isn’t a sign of weakness. It takes strength and courage to acknowledge an error and commit to fixing it. Earn respect by explaining how you plan to make things good, and emphasizing how you’ll ensure the mistake isn’t repeated.

You reap what you sow

Respect is something which you get when you give. Treat everyone with respect. Be patient when engineers are not able to create the perfect message or don’t have the right text for an UI label. Understand their expertise is elsewhere. Your efforts will be repaid with gratitude and respect.

Talk their language

Be a Roman when in Rome. Talk to an engineer like an engineer. Do your homework. Do your research. Learn and understand before you talk to them. Use their words. Use references and metaphors that demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about. This will enable your interactions with the subject matter experts. At times, it will also surprise and delight them.

Be the user advocate 

It is the expertise you should never apologize for?You should be well-versed with not just language, grammar, and so on, but you should be proficient in every skill required to be an user advocate. The engineer may be an expert or he may be a thought leader but you are the authority on enabling user success. You are the users’ advocate.

Being aware of our impact on colleagues, valuing their contributions, supporting their efforts, and upholding their dignity can go a long way in creating the collective success that is so foundational to bringing about positive change in the lives of clients and in the systems that support them.
We learned about gratitude and humility—that so many people had a hand in our success….and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.

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”When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, and what is valued most highly.”

– Blaine Lee

Source: Internet, history and legends.

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