Would you rather be liked or respected? – How To Work Without Losing Your Mind author Cate Sevilla

Would you rather be liked or respected? – How To Work Without Losing Your Mind author Cate Sevilla

by Suswati Basu
1 comment

January 18th was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day where we reflect on the big man himself. And very few people commanded the respect that he did. MLK stated: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. At the moment, we’re living virtually together at work, and sometimes it can get pretty dicey with communication.

So how do we keep respecting each other when we’re all trying to figure out how this new system works?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Cate Sevilla, journalist, editorial consultant and author of How To Work Without Losing Your Mind. Here is the full interview:

Fred Tschepp, artist.

Thomas Jepsen, co-founder of check4lead.com.

Mumbai-based entrepreneur Khushbu Davda

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Antarctic Expedition leader and International Keynote Speaker Rachael Robertson speaks to Dr Diane Hamilton.

Billionaire business tycoon Warren Buffett speaks about how he used Dale Carnegie’s book to help him succeed in communicating:

Books looked at this week:

Cate Sevilla: How To Work Without Losing Your Mind

Rachael Robertson: Respect Trumps Harmony: Why Being Liked is Overrated and Constructive Conflict Gets Results

Dale Carnegie: How To Win Friends and Influence People

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.


Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to the ninth episode of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

It was Martin Luther King Jr Day on Monday January 18th, and a quote came prominently to my mind: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. At the moment it feels like that whilst remote working. It can be easy to misconstrue Slack messages or emails when we’re all so far apart.

So how do we keep respecting each other when we’re all trying to figure out how this new system works?

Here is artist Frederic Schepp talking about what disrespect means to him.


Our first book is from the wonderful journalist and author Cate Sevilla. Sevilla has led and managed editorial teams for some of the world’s largest media and tech companies – including Google, BuzzFeed and Microsoft. And now she’s the author of How To Work Without Losing Your Mind, being a voice of reason while we try gain respect. I caught up with her earlier this week. For the full interview, visit http://www.howtobe247.com.


Sevilla says a lot of the reasons we suffer at work can be because of badly trained managers who have a negative impact on our mental health, toxic work cultures that are lacking in boundaries, employees are lulled into a false sense if security by being told they’re apart of a “family”, or the overall work culture that puts parents, women, and anyone different at a disadvantage.

When it comes to difficult managers, she says to have those challenging conversations, but to approach it by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, drop assumptions and your expectations of how they will react, remember you are not a mind reader so you don’t know their intentions or how you ended up there, and focus on bringing solutions to the conversation and not just problems.

She also talks about comparing culture, you may have the same hours of the day as Beyoncé – but she has money and help and you don’t so stop comparing yourself to the unrealistic standards of celebrities.

Respect yourself by avoiding burnout through defining what success, achievement, and ambition is for you in both your personal and working life, integrating these areas together, then making a damn plan and setting some boundaries along the way. This also means maintaining your baseline energy by doing the obvious things like taking a shower, eating well, and sleeping well.

To avoid the whole work family situation and maintain respectful boundaries, avoid gossiping  on Slack or WhatsApp. Apparently employers are allowed to look at some devices, especially work related ones. If you do gossip, confide with people outside of work, or limit it to one person you’ve known a while. Sevilla says to actually not add colleagues to your private social media accounts and tell them you have a rule about this. It’s your choice what you want to share with your colleagues.

And this also links in with making sure you have boundaries with time management at work. Be strict with your lunch times, toilet breaks, get to work on time and leave on time in order to maintain your professional reputation. And in a remote setting, make it clear when people can reach you, make it clear how people can reach you, be consistent and abide by your own communication rules.

Our next book is from Antarctic expedition leader and International keynote speaker Rachael Robertson. Respect Trumps Harmony: Why Being Liked is Overrated and Constructive Conflict Gets Results talks about how to create a high performing team through respect especially as workplaces become more diverse.

Here is Robertson on her LinkedIn:


In 2005, Rachael was not only the second woman to lead an expedition to David Station, she was the youngest. Leading a diverse team in the world’s harshest conditions, including complete isolation, 24-hour darkness and temperatures of around minus 35 degrees Celsius, taught her numerous lessons.

She believes that having direct, difficult conversations in a timely manner will get results and garner respect. Gone are the days of not dealing directly with issues in order to “maintain harmony”. Such strategies, she says, lead to catastrophizing and exacerbate otherwise manageable problems.

The $30 million science program was almost at jeopardy over an argument over whether bacon should be soft or crispy when cooked. So she devised her now well-known “no triangles” strategy. This means no speaking to third parties about other people. If you have an issue or something that needs to be discussed, you speak to that person directly.

Good timing is also critical. Many employees will often choose to let issues in the workplace “fester”, instead of having direct conversations about the problem at the time.

Leaders now need to focus on “being seen to be leading” and being accountable during errors of judgement. That means being present in the community, giving regular updates and being available to give guidance and answering questions at all times.

Women should “back themselves” when applying for leadership positions, even if they do not meet all the skills or experience criteria of roles advertised, says Robertson.

Changing tack, the final book which I couldn’t get away from is Dale Carnegie’s well renowned book, How to Win Friends and Influence People written in 1936. Over 30 million copies have been sold worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. Even billionaire Warren Buffet swears by it.

Whilst psychologists have changed some of the strategies in the book, the main gist is:

If you want people to like you, don’t criticise them.

If you want others to do you favors, show your appreciation frequently and make them feel important.

If you want to make a good first impression, smile.

If you want to be interesting yourself, be a good listener who is genuinely interested in others.

Think about what others want and talk about what’s important to them.

Whenever you’re wrong yourself, admit it right away.

When drawing attention to mistakes, do so indirectly and speak of your own errors first.

While a lot of this advice might overlap with the other books, it doesn’t necessarily talk about having challenging moments in order to resilience.

So to sum up:

How To Work Without Losing Your Mind talks about learning to have difficult conversations, standing up for yourself through boundaries, accepting what’s in your control and not, understand your own psychological makeup and insecurities, reflect what you want in life, and tend to the relationship between your body and mind.

Respect Trumps Harmony recommends avoiding triangles by being direct with people, focus on visibility and accountability, and backing yourself and your skills.

How To Win Friends and Influence People says make yourself likeable, smile, listen and remember the names of others. People crave appreciation so shower them with it and talk about what’s important to them. If you want someone to change, be lavish and generous with your praise, encouraging them for every bit of progress they make. Admit your own mistakes openly and only call attention to the mistakes of others indirectly.

I think there were many Eureka moments I had with Sevilla’s book. So definitely need to be better at communicating with people. Here’s Thomas Jepsen, co-founder of check4lead.com and entrepreneur Khushbu Davda. And if you enjoyed this please hit subscribe!

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