Why a little care and respect goes a long way

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UK Chief Commissioner Tim Kidd reflects on the importance of treating each other with respect and consideration. It’s up to us to set the tone, contribute to mental well-being and be great role models for young people.

One of the great things about Scouts is how passionate we are about it. We truly believe that it transforms lives – by giving young people the skills they need to succeed, as well as a place to belong. 

But precisely because we’re so passionate about what we do, we sometimes end up in disagreements about the way we do things. In the heat of the moment we might say things we later regret, without considering the feelings of others, and in doing so, we fall below the standards we expect from our own Scouts. We fail to be the role models we aspire to be.

Living our values

That’s why I wanted to write a short blog reflecting on why we need to consciously think about how we treat each other, both in person and online. And I think it comes down to two things, both of which also happen to be Scout values – care and respect. Put even more simply, we need to remember to be nice to each other. After all, we all share the same broad aim – we just have different ideas of how to get there.

I’ve loved the recent Scout campaigns we’ve done on empathy and active listening, mainly because they’ve been so practical in terms of giving us tips to develop these skills. I firmly believe that we never stop learning – and that it’s never too late to change habits of a lifetime. Things like active listening – allowing people the time and space to speak, giving them your full attention and withholding any judgement – is so useful when communicating with others in Scouts. A really good conversation, allowing both sides to air their views, can often be all that’s needed to move on. You don’t need to agree and nobody needs to ‘win.’ The Scouts benefits from a diversity of thought as well as a diversity of membership – it’s healthy to have different perspectives. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is so valuable. It helps you see the world a different way, and you’ll find your behaviour changes too.

Thinking about what we say – especially online

On social media in particular, it’s all too easy to step over the line. Without the ‘clues’ you get from a face to face conversation, comments can be misconstrued and it can be hard to judge someone’s mood. Sometimes people feel braver when they are in front of a screen than they would be if they were in the same room.

As a movement, we’re doing a huge amount of work promoting mental wellbeing. Showing consideration and respect in the way we speak with each other is a great way of ensuring we help maintain good mental health. There’s no way of knowing what someone is going through at any given moment, or how resilient they are. So let’s be careful of our tone, especially when we’re writing to each other or expressing a strong view. If you think something will be challenging to communicate online, it can be so much better to pick up the phone or arrange to meet up.  

Here are some good things to think about – most of which I’m sure you already practice, but in the rush to finish projects and get things done, are easy to forget.

Be courteous

‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ goes a long way. If calling on the phone, or stopping someone for a chat, it’s always polite to ask if it’s a good time to speak first. Better to ask than tell.

Be respectful of people’s time and possessions

If you’ve arranged an appointment, stick to it or give people warning if you know you’re going to late. If you borrow something, ask first and look after it, then return it when you say you will.

Be kind

The people who impress me the most are those who as kind to strangers, volunteers, contractors, suppliers as they are to their boss, friends and family.  

Be mindful of differences

We’re lucky to have such diversity in the Scouts, but that means we all have different ways of doing things. Think about different cultural practices, beliefs and political views. If in doubt, it’s always best to ask.

Be respectful of personal space

Not everyone is comfortable with people getting too close – so a simple (left) handshake is often best, as well as meeting in open spaces.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because really another way of expressing our Scout Laws; particularly ‘A Scout is friendly and considerate’ and ‘A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.’ 

Thank you for everything you do. Your kindness, generosity and commitment is what inspires me. It’s such a pleasure to work with you to support our young people.


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