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The Role of Respect in Mexico

While trust must be earned in Mexico, respect should be given to everyone.  By the mere virtue of being human, one deserves respect from others.  There are a number of different ways to show it, and if you are doing business or working in Mexico, you should be familiar with some of these. 

Since Mexico is a highly stratified society in which status and rank are extremely important, it is necessary to pay attention to how people fit into the hierarchy and to show deference to people of status and seniority, as well as to the elderly.  One way this is done is by displaying a certain degree of formality. 

Another way to show respect is by being attentive to titles.  In addition to corporate titles, Licenciado (Licenciada for women) is often used to address anyone holding a university degree, so it is used quite generously as a sign of respect.  If the person with whom you are speaking has no title, use Señor for men, Señora for married women, and Señorita for unmarried women and secretaries. Their surnames should follow the title.

Being sure to greet all who are present is another essential way of displaying respect in Mexico.  For a supervisor or boss, this means that you should greet your employees before embarking on a business issue.  Saying hello, shaking hands, and asking how each person is shows that their attendance is acknowledged and respected, making everyone comfortable in your presence.  Conversely, shouting at a subordinate in front of others not only causes that person to lose face, but it also makes others feel you have been disrespectful - causing them to lose respect for you!

As a family-oriented society, family is a source of pride.  Any compliment regarding a family member reflects on the person and show respect for his or her role in the family. In addition, if you have Mexicans working for you, awards, certificate and other such things that can be displayed in the home, shows the respect your company has for the employee and elicits respect for the employee within the family.

Other ways of showing respect include softening eye contact and physically handing documents or materials to colleagues and clients.  Speaking of documents, if you are doing business in Mexico, having materials translated into Spanish not only shows respect for their language but can also help to speed up a slow process by ensuring that all important parties will be able to easily understand your proposals, agreements, and so on.  Generally, business negotiations can be lengthy in Mexico, but appearing aggressive or impatient shows a lack of respect for how business is done there.

Honoring this value of respect may require some conscious focus, some seemingly repetitious effort, and a willingness to slow down enough to demonstrate your regard for formalities.  But the benefits and long-term paybacks far outweigh the time you take to show Mexicans respect in a way that is of value to them.


by Diana Rowland, author of Japanese Business: Rules of Engagement


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Rowland & Associates is a premier cross-cultural consulting firm, providing essential international business skills since 1985. Our passion is bringing intercultural business success through heightened insight and agility. We believe that bold steps with exceptional preparation can create dynamic solutions.


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