Life Skills

Respect is a two-way street

How does anyone go about gaining the respect of another person?  Some people command respect without ever asking for it.  They display a quiet authority similar to Atticus Finch in the classic movie ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.”  He respected his children, and it followed that his children respected him.  Then the ripple effect occurs; children respect themselves and others as well.

 People who don’t respect others don’t generate it from others. Now, they may be able to instill a fear based respect, but that is different.  These people exhibit a false deference toward the other person knowing that if they don’t, the consequence will be unbearable.  Then they in turn treat others with similar fear tactics that were used on them…  Gaining respect doesn’t come from using your intellectual or physical ability to outsmart or outmuscle a person.  You gain allegiance by using your internal and emotional strength to model good behavior.

To have respect for others, you have to have respect in yourself.  Respect means to have trust and faith in yourself. 

Respect means a lot of different things.  On a practical level it seems to include taking someone’s feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, wishes and preferences into consideration.  I could also say it means taking all of these seriously and giving them worth and value.  In fact, giving someone respect seems similar to valuing them and their thoughts, feelings, etc.  It also seems to include acknowledging them, listening to them, being truthful with them, and accepting their individuality and idiosyncrasies.

Respect can be shown through behavior and it can also be felt.  We can act in ways which are considered respectful, yet we can also feel respect for someone and feel respected by someone.  Because it is impossible to act in ways that do not reflect how we really feel (at least for extended periods of time), the feeling of respect is more important than the behavior without the feeling.  When the feeling is there, the behavior will naturally follow.

Going back in time, respect played an important role in survival.  If we think of a small tribe wandering in the desert, we can imagine that a person not respected by anyone could be left behind and die.  Such a person was considered to have no worth. no importance, no value to the group.  I think this is the foundation of our psychological need to feel respected.

Now days, it seems much more possible to survive without being respected.  Someone could inherit a large sum of money, have many servants and employees and have people constantly calling on him and catering to him, yet not be respected in the least.  Someone could also make a lot of money through having a particular talent which is valued, such as being able to dunk a basketball yet not really be respected, maybe because of the way he treats others.

Still, there is a value to respect things which money can’t buy.  Though someone’s life might not depend on it, there are times, many times in fact, when another person has the chance to make a personal decision – a judgment call.  When that person feels sincere respect for someone else, they will make a different decision than if they feel no respect, even if they have customarily shown a false, pseudo-respect to the person.

We can all sense whether we are respected or not — this hold true for those with money and power as well with people with no money and no power.  When we are respected we gain the voluntary cooperation of others.  We don’t have to use as much of our energy and resources trying to get our needs met.  When people respect one another, there are fewer conflicts.  People let others have their own opinions and they have theirs… they don’t have to match. 

Respect seems to be like a boomerang in the sense that if you send it out, it will come back to you.  Respect cannot be demanded or forced.

Here are some ways to show respect for someone’s feeling:

  • Asking them how they feel
  • Validating their feelings
  • Empathizing with them
  • Seeking understanding of their feelings
  • Taking their feelings into consideration

For this process to work, several things are required.

  • You should be aware of your own feelings
  • You should be able to express your feelings
  • You should know how to listen non-judgmentally and non defensively
  • You should know how to validate feelings
  • You should believe that feelings have value
  • You should believe that feeling matter

If respecting someone means respecting their feelings and their survival needs, then if a person does not respect your feelings, they don’t respect you.  If those in positions of power and authority do not respect your needs and feelings, they will not earn your respect, right?

Here are some specific ways to show respect:

  • Ask others “How would you feel if…”  before making a decision which affects them
  • Voluntarily making changes and compromises to accommodate their feelings, desires and needs
  • Not interrupting them
  • Soliciting and allowing feedback.  Trying to understand their beliefs, values and needs (you do not have to believe, value or need as they do… just try to understand)
  • Giving them the opportunity to solve their own problems without underestimating them… avoid telling them what to do, unless asked; avoid telling them what they ‘need’ or ‘should’ do; avoid giving them unsolicited advice, sermons and lectures.

But all in all, just model the behavior… you don’t teach people how to treat you – to respect you… you show them by treating and respecting them.

I am respecting me for a bit by going to “wet my whistle”…. I am respecting your time, buy quitting writing…. Off……

3 thoughts on “Respect is a two-way street”

  1. You have helped me see the importance of having self-respect as well as the ability to respect others!!

  2. How appropriate, too, to come after yesterday’s topic about playing God. I do think I am most respectful when I don’t try to change a person, and when all I want is for them (& everyone else) to be the best ‘them’ they can be. For me, self-respect comes from being true to myself, trying not to fit myself into the mold others think I belong in. That can be tough at times, esp when MANY people think they know what I should be doing or thinking. Thanks for a timely topic!

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