How To Be Feared And Respected

Fear and respect are important in leadership and daily life. When someone fears you they believe you are capable of inflicting some sort of harm on them. When people respect you they believe you epitomize certain characteristics they find valuable. This article will teach you how to be feared and respected whether it be by friends, in a relationship, at school, or in the workplace. These techniques work for everything.

The Psychology Of Respect

Respect is split in the literature between how people think they are viewed by the group and how the group actually views them. We will focus on the latter.

So how do you get people to respect you? Respect is built on two social based motives. First is desire for status and second is the need to belong or connect. Status elevation and liking contribute to respect. Status can be elevated by lowering other people’s status through insults or competition, or it can be elevated through demonstrating competence. Liking is closely related to rapport. See our article here for more on how to make people like you and feel connected to you.

This journal article will be drawn upon through out this article.

When entering a group focus first on fear, then competence, then liking. Most of your time should be focused on demonstrating competence.

Competence And Respect

Respect is built from two elements, status and liking.

First we will cover how competence builds status. If people believe you are reliable and skilled in a certain area, they will respect your decisions in that area. Gaining respect in a group from a competence perspective is typically a longer journey, though it can be sped up with symbols of success like degrees, past reputation, and the perception of dominance.

Think about what your group values and needs on a regular basis. Perhaps political conversations form a center piece of the group interactions. Maybe sports skills are more important. Find out what that group values and illustrate those skills and values. This can happen through independent accomplishments or through direct challenges or competitions.

Challenges can be as simple as verbal dominance disputes or as complex as illustrating good characteristics over a long period, like being on time. See the techniques listed below.

Techniques For Making People See Your Competence

  • Get yourself into a highly regarded role or position in the group. (Team captain.)
  • Develop a skill that others don’t have that is valuable to the group. (Programming, strength, timeliness.)
  • Once you have status in the group, withdraw yourself every once and a while so people notice how your absence hurts them. (Who is going to build the product if the engineer isn’t there?) Developing and illustrating a valuable skill is the most important tool for building respect through competence.
  • Be trustworthy and reliable. If you say you will do something, do it.
  • Ensure the leader of the group treats you with respect. People act like animals in that disrespect from a leader opens up the person for more dominance challenges from those who think they are better.
  • Focus on what you can contribute to the group. This means first discovering what the group wants and needs. Consider ways the out group threatens your group.
  • Treat yourself with respect. Stand up straight. Remove ‘ums’ from your speech. Set boundaries and follow through on punishments when people cross them. Work out.
  • Attack the most important person in the group. Criticize ways they fall short or are imperfect. Attacking the ‘big dog’ usually means you will get ignored or you will lose. But you can gain much notoriety and skill from the battle.
  • Stories can be used to express your competence or to illustrate why people should respect you. Think of ways to tactfully explain why you are important to the group in a story. Tell how you embodied the group’s values. Careful not to come off as too much of a braggart for too long. Stories can also create fear if done correctly. (what happened to the last person who kept insulting you?)
  • Questioning their reasoning also establishes a sense of respect because it makes you seem less like a push over. Whenever someone asks you a question, first make them respond to your own question. Simply ask them why they want to know that, or ask why that answer is relevant to the topic at hand. You can also try asking for evidence that supports the assertions they are making.
  • Shut up. Speaking less can give you the appearance of wisdom. Try cutting down the amount you speak by half and see how people hang on your every word. If you don’t notice people paying more attention to you, you either are around a group of people who you don’t have much to offer, or they don’t respect you enough to care what you have to say.
  • Push the envelope. If you accomplish something people in the group think is scary or impressive, they will respect you. Think pushing the envelope physically like in a sport, pushing the envelope intellectually like in academics, or pushing the envelope socially like in dating or networking.
  • Be assertive to increase respect. This can be initiating social contact with people, starting meetings, being the first to start working on something difficult, or generally leading in any way with your actions.
  • Get your mental game straight. If you are struggling with self confidence, do things that make you respect yourself. Focus on repeatedly exerting effort in working towards your goals and not whether you are successful or not in a task. When you enter a social situation, try pretending everyone there works for you.

Liking And Respect

Liking also effects status. Those who are perceived as more similar are often liked more. People will forgive those they like more and challenge them less. This all leads to more respect in the group. Getting people to like you will increase the status element of respect. Keep in mind that liking shouldn’t be the only foundation for respect. Illustrating competence and making contributions to the group can actually increase liking. Because of this competence and fear should be your focuses, not liking.

Techniques For Making People Like You

  • Practice listening to people and summarizing what they say back to them so they feel heard. Let them do most of the talking. Ask meaningful and observant questions about topics they like. This is the best way to get people to like you.
  • Find out what a person does for fun and what they are focused on in life. Take time to ask them about those elements each time they see you.
  • Make detailed and well thought out compliments to people. Bonus points if it is something they value and the group doesn’t notice that skill.
  • Attack the out group. This is used in marketing and politics to galvanize people. Who is your group fighting against? A different political faction? An ideological battle against non religious/religious people?
  • Treating others with respect and communicating how you are impressed with something they did will actually increase social engagement, identification with the group, and cooperation (see this article). All of these things will inadvertently increase how people respect you (if done in conjunction with other techniques.) Disrespect can carry retaliatory violence as a method for gaining back the lost status.

Psychology Of Fear

Fear is always of something, like of losing status or making a mistake, and for something, like family or health. Fear forms part of respect by reinforcing status. Those who are higher on the social ladder can punish those who are lower and disincentivize dominance challenges. Learn more about dominance here. Establishing fear first can often jump start a social group respecting you faster. If people know you can dole out punishment, they will be more likely to obey. Careful though, too much fear and they could bind together, unified in their dislike of you.

Fear And Respect

Many think respecting others will get you respect. This can be true but it is based on group values. Often the value of treating others respectfully and kindly don’t build personal respect. The danger with looking at gaining respect in terms of simply being respectful to others is it ignores the fear aspect of respect. If people don’t fear you in some way, they won’t think twice about trampling over your boundaries when times get tough. If you’ve treated people with respect and then they trample on your boundaries, you might begin to feel like a victim. You are entitled to respect, right? (/sarcasm)

It has been hypothesized that fear of the unknown is one a fundamental fear. This means the threat of what could happen can be enough to make someone fear you and then comply. You must be willing to hurt people (psychologically) in order to gain and maintain respect. This typically only needs to be an insult or a question that points out how they aren’t as good as they think they are. But if you have leverage and won’t use it, people won’t respect you.

Instead, focus on building fear and illustrating competence. Respect will follow. Use the techniques listed below to strike fear into someone.

Techniques For Making People Fear You

  • Find out what people want and take it away from them. If they want people to think they are impressive, point out situations where they’ve failed. See this article on finding people’s weaknesses. Find ways to escalate the intensity of your attacks. Instead of just jumping to the most intense way to attack them, insinuate the weakness first, insult it publicly second, then fully attack it until they comply. This conserves social resources.
  • Confront people about sub optimal actions, failures, and violating your boundaries. This means informing them when they have crossed a boundary. If they pretend to not remember or think they did something wrong, tell them there will be a consequence next time regardless of if they recognized the behavior or not. Follow up with a consequence.
  • Disagreeing can create a sense of fear, especially with a know it all. Many know it alls are used to people just agreeing and listening to them. Show them you are different by disagreeing and arguing for the opposing side. They will think twice to BS around you. This is similar to not just going with the crowd.
  • Act dominant by lowering your voice, being loud, taking up space, being physically dominant, and speaking over people. General assertiveness also helps here. See this article for more. Keep in mind too much of this will make you look like a try hard.
  • Be willing to go the distance. Fear can also come from being willing to go farther than the other person. We don’t condone any law breaking, but to illustrate our point, would you be more scared of someone who had been convicted of murder multiple times or someone who is the loud mouth at work? A practical version of this advice can be simply being more willing to be mean, insulting, and verbally aggressive than everyone else is around you. Try instantiating dominance disputes by insulting people who could be threats. Careful, don’t do this too much as it will cause you to quickly lose allies.


If you want respect focus on elevating your social status and getting people to like you. Respect in the long run comes from demonstrating competence which raises your status. Respect in the short term comes from fear and reputation.

If you are struggling with getting people to respect you socially, in the workplace, or in a relationship, first start disagreeing immediately whether you actually disagree or not. Next work on developing a skill that is valuable and scarce to the group. Finally set clear boundaries and consequences for those boundaries. When people cross those boundaries tell them. When they cross those boundaries again, punish them until they comply.

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