In my opinion, being respected is one of the biggest hurdles security personnel encounter in their careers. I have experienced these challenges many times in my career (over 20 years), but more so when I was newer. In this article, I will address what I feel are some of the biggest elements of this problem, as well as cover some suggestions for overcoming them.
Remember, you will accomplish a lot more, with fewer issues on the job and in your career, if you are respected and viewed as a professional.
#1 The Challenge and Solution – Outward Image
They say that first impressions are extremely important. This is very true and equally important when looking to be respected as a Security Officer. Even before contact is made, individuals are already starting to judge you based on your appearance. If you’re unfit, poorly groomed, have a dirty or improperly fitted uniform or are wearing a fully tactical batman starter kit, people will begin to develop preconceived notions well before you say your first word. They will therefore base everything that happens next on how you look and if you don’t respect yourself, your employer or the client you work for; why should they respect you.
The solution to overcoming this part of the problem is to start with respecting yourself and your appearance. Do what you can and stay physically fit. Fitness is not only extremely beneficial to your on the job capabilities, it is also crucial to how you will be perceived. You also have to have a clean and properly fitted uniform, with shiny shoes or boots. Do not overlook your grooming and hygiene. Everything relating to your outward image is important to making respectful first impressions.
Pro Tip: This advice does not just apply to the bad people you encounter on the job. It also applies to good people also (supervisors, subordinates, clients and future employers). Your outward appearance applies to everyone you encounter.
Extra Pro Tip: Also consider your body language. How you stand, walk and gesture has a lot to do with how you are perceived. This is a bit outside the scope of this article, but do some more research on this and start making your own observations. Apply the most appropriate body language for any situation with deliberate effort for better results.
#2 Verbal Communication
If you’ve mastered the basics of outward appearance, the next most important element to consider is what you say and how you say it. Word selection, tone, cadence and volume are all important to achieving respect and then subsequently accomplishing your tasks.
Here are some common problems I’ve noticed amongst security personnel:
- Trying to sound like a lawyer, defensive tactics instructor or extra on a B rated action movie
- Trying to sound (or look) cool, or be a tough guy/gal (although this is more common in males in my experience)
- Saying too much
- Saying too little
- Using inappropriate language
- Being unnecessarily loud
Here are some of my suggestions for mastering verbal communication in order to be respected and get results
- Talk to people like a normal human being
- Talk to people with respect and have a little empathy for their situation.
- Know your stuff (Laws, Authority, Policies, Site, Situation)
- Know people
- Use your knowledge of stuff and people to select the best tactic for the situation
- Apply verbal escalation and de-escalation principles. If you come in at the top end of the spectrum you will have nowhere to go.
- Get better at fitness – wait what? – Yes, the more fit you are, the less agitated you will become and the more in control of your emotions you will be.
- Learn how to control your breathing to reduce your stress (tactical breathing)
Pro Tip: If you can control your heart rate through tactical breathing you will be much more capable of thinking and processing information. This also helps reduce emotions. Being able to observe, think and speak will make everything much easier.
Extra Pro Tip: Read books or listen to audiobooks on negotiation, marketing, sales, and emotional intelligence. I have this great resource called a library card and I link it to an app called Hoopla. I can download 5 free books a month – and have been doing it for years now.
Better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you’re an idiot than open your mouth and remove all doubt! – Unknown
#3 Appropriate Use of Force
First, let me say I am by no means suggesting you not use force if it is required and within the scope of your authority, abilities, policies and the situation. However, individuals and organizations can get a bad reputation that erodes respect and reduces effectiveness if they use force too much. Like many things, the use of force is a tool and in some circumstances is absolutely necessary. But if you can accomplish your goals without using force you are likely to gain much more respect than if you had to use it. This applies to whomever you are interacting with, but also throughout your site and extended network.
If you are viewed by all as a calm, levelheaded person, who uses force sparingly, then you will generally have a much easier time with local trouble makers, career criminals (to an extent), customers/non-criminals, supervisors (and subordinates) and clients.
Pro Tip: Be safe and be smart. Select the most appropriate tactic for the situation. Don’t be afraid to use force, but also don’t let using force be what motivates you. (Young guys I’m mostly talking to you – as I was once young myself)
#4 – Build Rapport
When I used to teach officer safety to security personnel (and Police/Military), we would talk about building rapport with the people we interact with. In this context, I suggested techniques to help find ways to connect with the individual you are dealing with as they will be more inclined to comply if even a small amount of trust is built. This, however, doesn’t just end with dealing with trouble makers or criminals. The more people you build rapport with, the more they will get to know you as a person. If you are a good person with good intentions, then your army of allies will grow and an atmosphere of professional respect will develop around you.
Pro Tip: Consider hostage survival techniques here. You want to build rapport with your captures so they don’t kill you. You need to say and do the right things, in the right quantities, at the right times, so you can survive in time to be rescued. The same principle can be applied to building respect in “client contact” settings as well as a career setting. (I often teach a similar concept for Close Protection professionals who work with VIP Clients and want to avoid getting fired). Build rapport – get respect – diffuse a situation – build a career (stay alive).
#5 – Give Respect to Get Respect
I think another one of the most important elements for security personnel who want to be respected, is they need to respect others too. You need to respect your bosses, organization and clients. You need to respect the customers & people you interact with daily. You might not need to respect the criminals you engage with, but if you show a little respect or compassion, you may get some in return. Unfortunately, all too often I see security personnel who don’t respect others and get some weird superiority complex. At the end of the day, you’re a human being doing a job like other human beings. You’re no better or worse than anyone else. So show some respect to everyone you interact with until they give you a reason not to.
Pro Tip: Watch the movie Road House with Patrick Swayze
There are so many people in security who complain about not being respected. That lack of respect has an impact on their immediate interactions, as well as their career growth and the industry as a whole. Instead of focusing the blame on others, why not take an inward reflection of responsibility. Why are you not being respected and how has that impacted you? If you self-reflect and make changes based on some of the suggestions I’ve made here, then it is likely you will see positive results. If every security person, supervisor and employer took these steps then perhaps we could see a shift in respect for the industry. At the end of the day, respect is earned and is reflective. If you’re not getting the respect you think you deserve, have a look at the image you portray and the respect you’re giving out.
P.S. – Pro Tip – Next Level Respect and Success
I struggled with a lot of lessons in this industry for a long time. It wasn’t until I had some time working in Close Protection that I truly grew exponentially on a professional level (and a personal one). I would suggest this is because of the extremely high standards of VIP Operations and the minimal room for error. So if you want to start developing in Close Protection & VIP Operations so you can have your own Next Level Growth; check out both our Close Protection Site Liaison (Online) Foundations Level Course and consider joining the VIP Local Asset Network (Free & Pro Level accounts available). Both of these options will give you access to a world that demands the highest quality of capability. Learn the lessons early from other Professionals so you can avoid major mistakes.