of RED RIVER VALLEY
|February 2008 Character Quality -- Deference
|the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
When considering the hiring of a good ambassador, what requirements come to mind? First,
the candidate must be excited about the institution he is representing. He must understand that
how he conducts himself reflects upon his superiors and his fellow colleagues. He also must
show deference to those with whom he makes outside contact – well aware of their differences
and traditions, either culturally or socially. Stanley Woodward was one such ambassador. As
Assistant Chief of Protocol before, during and after the Second World War, his specialty was
making others feel welcomed and cared for. Their comfort was his utmost point of concern.
When the King and Queen of England arrived in Washington, DC in 1939, Mr. Woodward had
already spent ninety days in preparation for their nine – day – visit. This was not an
extraordinary measure for Mr. Woodward – this was simple courtesy. After the war, there was a
large shortage of formal wear, particularly white ties. Mr. Woodard suggested to the president
that black ties be considered acceptable for formal affairs. Since the 1950’s, black tie events
are the norm for America.
As Assistant Chief of Protocol, Stanley Woodard had to understand deference. Deference is
limiting my freedom so I do not offend the tastes of those around me. Deference is yielding to
the wishes of others. Deference is consideration of others.
In some countries, people expect you to take and eat whatever they offer at the dinner table. In
others, it is considered offensive if you do not like the food; yet eat it as though you did. In
order to avoid offending the hostess, you should take care that you understand the traditions of
that home. The Chinese have a unique custom – whenever two people meet on a road,
whoever stops at the intersection first crosses last, showing honor to the other. It is considered
an insult if you purposefully stop last. Many other customs and traditions shape the way we
conduct ourselves through life. Yet one thing stays the same: respect and honor for the other.
None of us appreciates an aggressive driver, rudely making his presence known to a multitude
of others who are trying to reach their destination just as quickly. Waiting that extra second
before you cross that intersection may save a car accident.
Respect for other people’s time, possessions, and opinions is a difficult avenue to take
sometimes. As in the case with anyone involved in a debatable issue, Patrick Henry had a
choice to respect or scorn his colleagues. In the 1700’s, before the Revolutionary War, many of
the statesmen expressed many varying views on the subject of independence. When Patrick
Henry gave his “Give Me Liberty” speech, he began it with these words: “No man thinks more
highly than I do of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different
men see the same subjects in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought
disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions...very different to theirs, I shall
speak forth my sentiments...”. Even as he debated their views, he respected them as fellow
men. Such is the picture of deference in an uncompromising situation.
As deferential people, committed to the success of others, we can work on a few things.
Understand who and what is around us and conduct ourselves accordingly. If someone borrows
a phone, he should not check out all aspects of it before returning it. When in a library or
restaurant, this is not the time to share music, disrupting others. We need to be aware of others
attitudes and actions and respond accordingly. One word that sums up all aspects of deference
is courtesy. Punctuality, opening doors for women, children, and the elderly, avoiding offensive
language or humor, and respecting others’ personal work/living space; all these things are
practical ways we can show deference to our families, colleagues, and anyone else we meet.
Such conduct will strengthen our character and make us someone others will desire to work with
and imitate. Alexander Maclaren says, “Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win
the world, melt it; do not hammer it.”
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! material. For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact: Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK 73102, (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at www.character-paris.org.