Have you ever been talking with someone and had the uneasy feeling that they just didn’t like you, or couldn’t be bothered to relate to you? It’s an awful feeling of being unsupported at best, disrespected at worst. If you have had one of those experiences, you know what it is like to not be granted legitimacy.
Granting legitimacy is an action taken toward someone else. It is a way you interact with someone by showing respect for them as a human being. Legitimacy for our purposes is the right to being a human being with unique opinions and perspectives. When you grant legitimacy you are saying that in your view, the other person has a right to their own opinions and judgments, just as you do. They have the right to exist in whatever way they choose.
Granting them the right to be does not mean you agree with their view or actions. You grant it to them freely based on them being a fellow human being in the game of life.
It is easier to grant legitimacy for what someone does such as working as an accountant, mother, or carpenter. It’s also important to grant legitimacy for who they are, what they care about, their perspective on the world, and their principles.
I think we sometimes struggle with granting legitimacy at my company. I hear things like, “What do you expect, he’s an Architect” and “Project Managers rule the world after all!” Of course these things are said in jest but I think they can point to a deeper lack of respect. We have to work to break down the subtle “us vs. them” mentality.
When we don’t grant someone legitimacy, we don’t listen, don’t reply to emails, or label them in some negative way. When legitimacy is not felt, a certain feeling is created; a low-grade sense of distance, diminishment, or unease. The opposite is true when legitimacy is felt. There is a sense of warmth, ease with the other person, and a connection at the human level. The person must feel this acceptance.
How do we grant legitimacy?
• Show respect for the individual
• Fully listening; both when you agree and especially when you disagree
• Show that you separate the actions or words you don’t agree with from the person
• Understand how someone’s background and history affects what they are saying and how they are behaving
• Make an effort to show someone what they said matters to you
The most critical element is that they believe you have granted this to them. None of this matters unless the other person fully believes you have granted them legitimacy. Without granted legitimacy, concerns cannot be addressed and relationships cannot be built or strengthened. Be sure you are granting others the legitimacy they deserve.