1573 – Lead with Curiosity with Center For Respect’s Mike Domitrz

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the Chief Executive Officer & Co Founder of The Center for Respect Inc., Mike Domitrz.


Mike is the president of the Center for Respect, has been advocating for respect for 33 years, and emphasizes the importance of using one's voice to create positive change. He also touches on the impact of social media on respect and how it can lead to a lack of exposure to different beliefs.

But the conversation doesn't stop there. He also questions the idea of respect being solely about not harming others. Instead, he suggests it should also involve feeling safe to express opinions and say no to superiors. And let's not forget the impact of small actions, such as interrupting conversations, on workplace culture.

So, if you want to improve your workplace culture and create a culture of respect, check out Mike Domitrz's website,, for tips and resources for K-12, military, and business settings. Remember, it all starts with small actions and using your voice to create positive change.


About Mike Domitrz:

Mike is a pioneer in promoting consent and respect and has been crucial in reshaping societal norms around these topics. Before their mainstream recognition, Domitrz worked with top educational institutions and the U.S. military to instigate this shift. As an author, speaker, and founder of The Center for Respect, he has influenced countless individuals and organizations, ranging from teenagers to CEOs. His work has been recognized on platforms such as NBC Dateline, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Domitrz assists impact-driven leaders and entrepreneurs in refining their public speaking skills, emphasizing authenticity and unique storytelling, leading to tangible returns on their investments.


About The Center for Respect Inc.: 

They offer valuable guidance and practical skills for fostering a culture of respect within organizations, families, and communities, serving a diverse client base, including educational institutions, the U.S. military, and various organizations. Over the past decade, the Center has responded to the rising societal awareness around dating violence, sexual assault, consent, and teen sexual behaviors. Through the Date Safe Project, it offers interactive keynotes, workshops, books, and resources aimed at clarifying misconceptions about consent and sexual assault. These resources provide engaging exercises, educational lessons, and powerful stories to drive change. Additionally, the project equips parents with straightforward strategies for discussing challenging topics like dating and sexual assault awareness with their children.


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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out The Center for Respect Inc. website at

Check out The Center for Respect Inc. on LinkedIn at

Check out Mike Domitrz on LinkedIn at

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Speaker 1 (00:00:59) - With us right now. It's Mike Domitrz. Mike, you are a professional speaker. You're the president, author, uh, of, uh, uh, you're an author as well, and you're the president of the Center for Respect, you're Found on the Mike, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me. I'm Josh. Looking forward to the conversation. Yeah, so what does the Center for Respect do? Yeah, we work with everything from middle schools, high schools, universities, US military, all over the world, and corporations and businesses on creating a culture of respect. And that can mean different things with each of those different groups like middle schools, high schools, universities. We're talking about sexual respect, corporations. We're talking about a foundation of respect, how we treat each other in our day-to-day interactions. Yeah, and and I was just saying before we, uh, hit record, um, it feels like right now the, uh, man, there are a lot of voices out there that are sowing a lot of discontent and they make a lot of money in sowing that discontent.

Speaker 1 (00:02:05) - Um, that's just my observation. Um, yep. And so I think that it's hard to expose yourself to a lot of us versus them language and then come to work or be a part of an organization or be involved in a community where there is, uh, diversity of thought and idea and background and so forth. And it's, we're comp. So Mike, I I I, I share that in, I think your, you got your work cut out for you. I think there are a lot of people, and again, I, I don't know that I'm properly, um, kind of identifying some issues, but what, what's your observation in terms of like where we are culturally in the United States in particular? Yeah, so here's the problem that occurs, especially in the US versus them. It's, I'm right and you are wrong. And as long as we're doing that, you're probably not treating me with respect.

Speaker 1 (00:02:57) - You're treating me with judgment. And there's a huge difference in those two concepts. So one of the biggest mistakes that we teach people to do in this world, and I don't mean we as an us, I mean the, the culture as a whole does this. Unfortunately, we believe in the opposite of what I'm about to say, but you can fill in the blank here, Josh. Hey, respect is not given. Respect is earned. Horrible message. Yeah. Because the moment you say to somebody, you have to earn my respect. Yeah. This is a power game. This is all a power game. I have to do something to be of value to you. And people get defensive about them or they do have to do something why they're a human being. And by the way, your organization hired them because they saw them as value. So you should be treating them as a valued human being.

Speaker 1 (00:03:41) - And when you ask people what does it mean to be disrespected? They see to be, to not be seen, to not be heard, to not matter, to be invisible, right? Those are horrific words to feel as a human being. And in the workplace, you really don't want to be feeling those feelings. So what does it feel like to be respected, to be valued and seen for exactly who I am, not just my potential. Now, why I love that is most people go, well see the best in everybody, and it implies only their best is worthy of treating them with respect. No. Just see them for who they are and treat them with respect. They have different beliefs in you. Respect the fact we have differences. It doesn't mean you agree with their differences. It doesn't mean you admire their differences, but respect the fact there are differences and they have the right to that we believe in freedom, right? So they have the, they have the right to those differences as you do. And so this leads to the second part of this. It's critical lead with curiosity. And we talk about this all the time, Josh. People go, how could they think that way? How about if you had asked it this way? Huh? I wonder how they can think that way. That gets me thinking curiously, how, where they're coming from versus how dare they, how dare they never guess us anywhere. So it lead with that curiosity can make a huge, huge difference.

Speaker 1 (00:05:02) - Um, and Mike, how did you get into this role? And, and you started this, I don't know if it's what you were doing back then is the same as what you're doing to now, uh, today, but it, it, it's almost like, uh, I mean, what I, what I would say is your message today, uh, couldn't be more valuable, uh, in, in, in a world where I think there unfortunately is my observation. Is it social media? You know, I, well, let me just forget that question. How is social media impacting your work today? That is the, that's the thousand pound gorilla I need to ask you about. Well, there there's a lot of, there's a lot of answers to that question. First of all, social media puts us in bubbles, right? And if anybody has seen the, the social media documentary social dilemma, I think is the name of it, uh, Netflix, it, it shows precisely how algorithms are built to make sure we keep seeing things that entice us.

Speaker 1 (00:05:54) - So we see the things we already wanna see. What that means is that puts us in a bubble and it means it just solidifies our beliefs and never exposes us to other beliefs. The danger of that is it be, goes back to us versus them, and it actually feeds off that. And so it can be incredibly dangerous is what it can be because it's bubble thought versus hey, curiosity of how other people think. And that's number one. Problem number two, as we all know, people say things on social media, they would never say face to face. Never. Yeah. Which is a, usually when they're doing it, complete lack of understanding that this person on the other side of this is a human being who I need to treat with, didn't respect, and I'm good people going, well, what if they don't treat me with didn respect?

Speaker 1 (00:06:40) - So you still do because that's who you are. I don't stop treating Josh with respect cuz he says something to disrespect at me. Because if I start treating Josh with disrespect, that means I am somebody who disregards people and that's not who I am. So disrespect me all you want, I'm treating you with respect. And by the way, if you are somebody who's like, well, get back at someone, you wanna get back at someone, treat them with kindness when they want you to be mad at 'em. Yeah. If you wanna, you know, if you wanna take that view. I don't believe in approaching it that way, but still it's the, it's gonna be true. They're gonna be more aggravated if you're kind and respectful. Ironically, your anger doesn't, yeah, your anger doesn't have any power here. Boy, . Yes, exactly. But let's go back to your original question because you started to ask.

Speaker 1 (00:07:26) - Yeah, yeah. Hey Mike, how did you get into this and sort of where's it gotten to today? Yes. And how well than it is today. Look, nobody grows up in the 1970s and eighties thinking I'm, I'm gonna be a speaker on respect that that wasn't, that wasn't even a concept that could come to my brain. And at 19 I received a phone call that the youngest of my older sisters was raped. And that rocked my world, not for days, not for weeks. It rocked it for months. And then I finally realized after I heard a speaker, I was in college at the time, wait, I can do something about this. I can use my voice. And so at 2021 I started speaking out. So that's when I started doing this work. That's 33 years ago when I started speaking out. And yes, did it look different than it does today?

Speaker 1 (00:08:12) - Yeah, but here's the wild part, Josh. People would say to me, well, students will listen to you now cuz you look like that and nobody's gonna listen to you when you're 30. And then when I got to 30, they'd say, well, they're still listening to you cuz you're not too old. But when you get to 40, no one's gonna be listening to you. Now the wild part of the pod about that Josh is along this journey is exactly what you just said. Wow. Now more than ever is what people have been telling me every te decade. So it's fascinating that this topic keeps rearing itself, showing itself. And the reason why is cuz nobody's actually addressing the foundational issues. They're just putting bandaids on it when it pops up. Yeah, me too is a great example of this. The whole country paid attention for two years at most, at most.

Speaker 1 (00:08:57) - And then acted like that wasn't a real history that had occurred once it got out of the news. It's still happening in companies, but how many are addressing it? They're doing the bare minimum. They're doing the legalese, check the box, we addressed harassment in the workplace and then wondering why they don't have an amazing culture in their work, in their organization. Mike, today you work, um, you work with schools including colleges, universities, you've done work with the military, which I'd love to ask you about. And then of course you do work, um, in, in the workplaces. Um, can, can you tell me a little bit more about like, um, well I I really curious obviously cause my military background. Um, what have you done with, uh, you know, with with folks wearing a uniform? Yeah, so that's some of my greatest work that I love doing is with the US military.

Speaker 1 (00:09:44) - And I literally been on four continents on this planet because of the US military. They, they send me where if we have a large enough installation there, there's a good chance I've been there, uh, in the world speaking for the military. And here's why. What they recognized in the mid two thousands, around 2005, 2006, a couple of the services started to recognize, hey, our approach to this is not proactive enough. Yeah. And they looked at university cities and said, who are the universities using that are really proactive and skills-based? And they came to me and said, can you make this work for the military? And I said, yeah, let's look at the culture. And so I just dove in learning the culture. And the difference I added was, as you know, people get married in the military way younger than they do if they're not in the military.

Speaker 1 (00:10:28) - Oh yeah. . Yes. So I got married, let's see, I was, no, I had just, I had just exited, but I was 23, my wife was 20 . Right, right. And so if I was speaking in a college, almost no one's married. No. Right. But the same age group, 18 to 22 in the US military, half the room might be married, right? A third of the room might be married or already divorced between 18 and 22. Uh, so what I did is I said, Hey, what if I bring marriage into this and discuss both the single life and the married life? And they were like, Hey, nobody's really doing that in this realm. And so that helped us really differentiate ourselves cuz we were bringing everyone into the conversation, not just the 18 year old, we are bringing the 55 year old who'd been married 30 years sudden they're like, oh, he's discussing things about my life.

Speaker 1 (00:11:14) - And that's what allowed us to do a lot of work with the military on building wonderful relationships, not just telling them what not to do. A lot of the military, as you know, they're constantly being told around this topic, don't do this, don't do that. Yeah. And right, you're just sitting there going, am I, is this what I gotta hear again for the 20th time in a row? And then they let us come in and go, well what would it look like if you were achieving what you wanted in a relationship? What does positive, healthy sexuality look like? And they're like, whoa, what? This isn't death by PowerPoint. And that's what allowed us to really change the conversation. You know, I was even shocked. Um, you know, I served, uh, 1990 to 95 and um, many, many years later. So this was back in 2016.

Speaker 1 (00:11:54) - Um, I got to interview bu Corrigan, who at the time was the athletic director at West Point, and I asked him about leadership and kind of the traits that that West Point looks to instill in, in their leaders. And um, he said that one of the three, so he said, leadership, character, and the third one in this blew my mind. Empathy. Yeah. And, and it's like all of a sudden the rest of my interview was like, well, I just threw that in the garbage. I'm like, what did you just say? Okay, you're the athletic director at West Point and you're talking about empathy, empathy in the military. That was a foreign concept. You know, it was just, you know, very, I'd say in my time it was, you know, still very kind of binary, black and white, kind of like you do the job and there's no discussion about it.

Speaker 1 (00:12:44) - Whereas, you know, I think his point was like, no, no, no. If you actually sit down and understand someone, understand why they're having a problem with something or understand what their challenge is, you can help 'em overcome that. But you're not gonna know that un if you're just barking at 'em, you know? Yeah. Well here's the, here. Absolutely Josh. So I've worked with all the academies, including West Point, and the reason I found your story striking in alignment is I was one speaking to the PAC fleet for the Navy Pacific fleet. And in this room was very high level leaders. Admiral gets up and says, what's the key to great leadership? And people started yelling, trust and command and confidence. And he said, empathy, and this is from a high ranking admiral. He said, I've gotta be able to look at every sailor's eyes when I walk by them and say, sailor, how are you doing today?

Speaker 1 (00:13:30) - And genuinely care, not just act like I'm playing the part of the admiral, I need to genuinely care and listen and be there for them. That's what great leaders do. And what I love about that is people will look at my logo and it has three motions inside of it. And they say to me, Mike, what is your logo about? What does that mean? Well, actually has very intentional meaning the first motion is empathy. So it's empathy, mutuality, and consistency. Empathy. I'm gonna care about you mutuality. We're not gonna do anything both of us don't wanna do together. I'm not gonna pressure you, you're not gonna pressure me, and we're gonna treat each other this way consistently. That's what's gonna propel us forward. And so I'm a huge fan of the word empathy. I love you brought that up. Yeah. Uh, Mike, some of us listen to our conversation.

Speaker 1 (00:14:16) - They're in leadership with their company or they're a founder and like, yeah. Um, I, I don't know what, what can, what can what, what kind of change or transformation can you help to create? Like how might the leader recognize that there are some opportunities to improve their culture? Yeah, great question. So here's what we do. We look at the minuscule subtle things all of us do, Josh, every day in the workplace that lead to forms of disrespect that we don't even recognize in the moment. Cuz what most people do in companies is they think we don't have a sexual harassment problem yet. We don't have, uh, this issue yet. But what they're not recognizing is there's little seeds being planted all over the place that're about to grow and show these problems because you were never dealing with the ground, with the fertilization of the ground, the foundation of the organization. So here's an example. Does everybody in your place feel safe saying no to their superiors?

Speaker 1 (00:15:16) - Most people you talk to in the workplace say, I'm not comfortable saying no to my boss. Well how respectful of an environment do you have if you're afraid to say no to your boss? Most people have never thought of that question. When they think of respect, they think no one's being done harm to. Right? That's an extreme. And what about the, do I feel safe to say yes or no? How about in the boardroom? Does everybody feel that they're safe expressing their views? Or do they fear judgment? Well, that's not a place of respect. If I fear how you're gonna look down on me if I say something you don't agree with. So do you interrupt conversations while they're happening in the workplace? Do you do something else while you're talking to somebody in the workplace so they don't matter enough to pause? We all do these things. And when you can have that conversation, you help everybody learn the little things they can do differently to dramatically seismically shifts the culture by everybody looking in the mirror going, I'm gonna do better today. Because now it's not about the evil person who does the wrong in the workplace, which is what most people think of. And that's going back to me too. People went, oh, we don't have that evil monster in our company, so we're good.

Speaker 1 (00:16:28) - But all of us make mistakes. So what if we could help us stop making mistakes that lead to disrespect every day? What would that do to the company culture? What would that do to retention? Can you imagine nobody wanted to leave cuz they felt valued every day they walk into work. Your company would've people lining at the doors to join because you'd have a culture, no one would ever wanna leave. Mike, when, uh, when companies wanna bring you in, what does that look like? What, what are the ways that they can engage with you and so you can help enact that change? Yeah, there's two most common ways people bring me in. One, they bring me in for a big conference for a big, you know, annual summit for the company or the association, and they have me keynote, right? That, that's a very, very common, the second way is they bring me in for training, either leadership training, but it could be three to four hour training where we dive into, I call it the nine daily displays of disrespect.

Speaker 1 (00:17:18) - And we dive into those nine and then show you the nine daily choices for respect. So in each of those moments, instead of doing this, oh, what if I just chose that? And it gives them all actionable items they could do, but it's very interactive. So during three hours they're writing down, oh, how do I do this? Oh, how do, how do we see this show up in our organization now? What are actions I can take? So they're walking out with a game plan and that's a more intensive workshop experience versus a keynote. Yeah. And you've, um, uh, here, here I would love for you to share maybe, uh, just a quick little list of, uh, folks that you've worked with that you can share, uh, like including universities. And do you mind just so I mean, yeah, sure. I've seen a few logos here and there on your website, but, uh, what, what are some of the ones that you're most proud of or ones that you think might be interesting to someone to listen to our conversation?

Speaker 1 (00:18:10) - Well, I mean we, uh, let's go to universities, right? Boo. What schools? Yeah. Princeton. Yes. Uh, you know, so Stanford, yes. You know, so we, we work at some of the schools that are considered some of the, those prestigious in the country. Look for me, I'm gonna be the commencement speaker, my alma mater. For me, that's as exciting as Princeton or Stanford, right? So it just depends on how you view it. Uh, when it comes to the military, every single service all over the world, including working at the Pentagon level and, and you know, ha sitting down in the Pentagon with, with leaders, uh, and having these conversations. And then when it comes to companies, it really varies. I just worked with one of the largest mining companies. There is Kennecott. So if there's copper anywhere and a battery or anywhere, there's a good chance it came from their minds, right?

Speaker 1 (00:18:54) - And it's, and they brought us in. Now people go, what? That's a very blue collar industry, Mike. Yeah. Because they care enough about their culture. It doesn't matter whether you're blue collar or white collar, is that you care enough about wanting to shift your culture to be stronger than it is today. And so it could be massive mega international companies like that, or small manufacturing companies, you know, outside Chicago, an hour away from me that we did a sat down and did a three hour training United conveyor, uh, that we did a three hour training with their senior leadership team. Yeah. Mike, your website is center for When somebody goes there, what should they click on? What do they do particularly well? What they're gonna, yeah, what they're gonna see, where they get there is they're gonna get to choose where they wanna go because we have actual different sections.

Speaker 1 (00:19:41) - Four K-12 for military, for business. Pick your lane, go into it, see what's there. Let us know if you want us to help you. We'd be thrilled to. We have a contact us page. Scroll down to the bottom, you'll see all our social media, Josh. Right now we're posting almost a video a day on social media. So if somebody wants to see what we do, click, click the social media, look at our YouTube page, look at the shorts. You'll see corporate stuff on there. You'll see school stuff on there. You'll get a vibe for how I work with audiences. Cuz in the end, that's what matters to most people. Hey, is this person gonna be able to engage our group? And the gift that I get is I've worked with every imaginable kind of audience there is in this world, . So it's pretty hard to come up with a group I that I haven't dealt with before and engaged with before. Yeah. All right. Mike Doish, again, hall of Fame, speaker, author, expert, and again, the, uh, president of the Center for Respect your website. Mike is center for Mike Domitrz, thank you so much for joining us. Hey, Josh, thank you so much for having me, Anna, for all you do getting these voices out to the world.

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