You respect others when you recognize and sincerely acknowledge their humanity,
worth, and significance. Each of us deserve respect simply because of our
- Acknowledging the dignity of another.
- Valuing Humanity.
- Acknowledgement of a person's high stature.
- Showing approval of another’s action or being.
- Acknowledging the existence, significance, and humanity of another.
- Expressing your true values and
- Recognizing your commonality and connection to another.
The terms admiration, appreciation, awe, honor, and esteem are approximate synonyms
for respect. The word respect originates from the Latin re- meaning
(as in repeat) and
specere, meaning “to look” (as in spectator). These root words taken
together mean “to look again”, or “to notice with attention”.
Overlooking an opportunity to show respect is often considered a slight. The opposite of
respect is disrespect and
violence. If someone considers our disrespect seriously, we may insult
or humiliate them.
Respect is action. We demonstrate our respect for others by giving them authentic positive
attention, listening with positive attention, acknowledging them as fellow human beings, and
providing appropriate recognition. Avoiding, withholding, or manipulating these
responses are signs of disrespect. Any form of insult or
humiliation is disrespectful.
Disrespect is the precursor to hate. Heed the warning.
Reevaluate the evidence, avoid the
distortions, correct the errors in reasoning, and
reject the temptation to dismiss the other.
Sometimes respect is inaction. Listening, hearing, comprehending,
understanding, and believing are often more respectful than speaking, debating,
denying, explaining, interrupting, and dismissing. Calm, patience, serenity, order
and a certain stillness may
encourage a deeper bond than chaos, hurry, and disorder. Retreating to rest and
relax rather than advancing; silence instead of constant chatter, requesting
instead of nagging; considering and contemplating rather than rushing to decide
or judge, and quality rather than quantity can all enhance a meaningful
relationship. Subtlety, nuance, and accuracy
demonstrate more respect than superficial and boisterous hype. Choose presence
instead of transience and being instead of doing. Choosing a hospice instead of medical
heroics may be the final and ultimate act of respect.
Demonstrating due respect is often the basis for establishing rules of
etiquette. Some polite customs, however, emphasize
asymmetry rather than
symmetry in a relationship. These customs act to
preserve the existing status hierarchy and
make it more difficult to question authority and speak
truth to power.
Respect and Symmetry
Respect is closely related to symmetry in a relationship. Formal and informal
hierarchies are ubiquitous in organized societies. The boss manages the workers,
adults discipline children, teachers instruct students, and doctors treat
patients. Respect is commonly seen as deference to status within the recognized
hierarchy. The worker is expected to show respect to the boss and the patient is
expected to show respect to the doctor. A more powerful and more meaningful
respect occurs, however, when the boss respects the worker and the doctor
respects the patient. Respect is recognizing this human connection. Since
power establishes a asymmetrical relationship,
demonstrating respect through a symmetrical relationship is the voluntary
sharing of power. It acknowledges that the bonds of humanity are more important
that the trappings of power and the formality of a hierarchy. Respectful
relationships are mutual and
reciprocal. Respect often works against the grain
of bureaucracy, providing a partial antidote to its frustrating impersonalization.
Although genuinely respecting yourself is sometimes more difficult than
respecting others, we all deserve to respect ourselves. We each deserve to
acknowledge our own dignity. Recognizing our own intrinsic worth frees us from the
expectations and judgments of others. It is a source of deep inner peace,
strength, and autonomy. Status is not image and self-respect is certainly not
gained by winning the praise of others and accumulating awards and other
status symbols. Self-respect begins at birth and is
sustained and increased by living an authentic
and honorable life.
Be careful to distinguish dissent—expressing disagreement with an idea, decision, or action—from
disrespect—denying the dignity of a person. Dissent is often helpful and
constructive. Better decisions are made by considering a variety of viewpoints.
Dissent is often required to introduce valid alternative viewpoints.
Unfortunately dissent is often confused with disrespect. For example if you
disagree with views expressed by a powerful (or
pretentious) person, they may react
by scolding you for attacking them. The message: “How dare you disagree with me”
is often sent one way or another. This is a common and manipulative ploy that
combines the fallacy of an ad hominem attack
with the fallacy of ad vericundium. Do not
tolerate this manipulation; learn to identify it and defend against it. Respond
by saying: “Let's not confuse dissent with disrespect here. I can disagree with
your statements and still respect you as a person. That is what I have done. I
deserve similar respect from you. Let's continue to discuss the issues at hand
without attacking each other. . . Perhaps it is helpful to review the
evidence supporting various points of view. . . ”
Have the courage to speak truth to power. Work toward a
dialogue, rather than acquiescing to a more power-based
mode of communication.
Do not tolerate disrespect. Respect yourself, as described above. Respect
your spouse, family members, friends, and co-workers. Demonstrate your respect
for them in every interaction. Dissent whenever it is helpful, but never show or
tolerate disrespect, either publically or privately. Take quick and effective
action to identify and respectfully express your intolerance of disrespect
whenever it arises in groups, gatherings, or meetings you are a part of.
Respond by saying: “That was disrespectful because . . . We all deserve to be
respected and there is no excuse for disrespect. If you disagree, then express
you dissent. Find a constructive resolution of the conflict. If you have
relationship issues to resolve, then participate in a constructive
dialogue to resolve them. I do not tolerate disrespect, there is no
reason for it, it is destructive, don't do it.” Do not
gloat or become self-righteous, disrespectful, sarcastic, spiteful, or vengeful when
expressing your intolerance. This is not easy, but is extremely valuable. Also,
speak up to defend any scapegoat that may be
emerging. Describe the fallacy in
blaming a single person for the difficulties of the
Respect and Religion
Too often religious beliefs are misused as an excuse to disrespect others.
What begins as demonstrations of faith and evangelizing can evolve into
intolerance and escalate into hatred and tragic
violence. Fortunately the
Decalogue of Assisi for Peace
was on adopted February 24, 2002 by 200 leaders of the world’s major religions.
This important declaration
recognizes that humanity must choose love over hatred. The Decalogue
clearly states that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic
spirit of religion. These religious leaders also commit themselves to educating
people in mutual respect and esteem. As you practice your own religion, join
these leaders as they pledge to keep compassion as their highest
- “Where respect says ‘Don't hurt’, responsibility says
‘Do help’.” ~ Thomas Lickona
- “The key to a positive No is respect.” ~ William Ury
- “You get respect when you give it; respect breeds respect”
- “Respect is the cheapest concession you can give the other.” ~ William Ury.
- “Liberty finally exists when the recognition I give you does not subtract
something from myself.”~
- “Self-respect has little to do with the outer world's evaluation of us
but is about a separate peace, a private reconciliation” ~
The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins
The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes,
by William Ury
Respect: An Exploration,
by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot