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Healthy relationships require that we connect with respect.
There are many reasons for this, the most important being that all living beings deserve our utmost unconditional respect. Another reason is because we need each other. If we hurt each other, we hurt ourselves in the end, for others put up walls to protect themselves from us and may even retaliate to hurt us back. We lose healthy connection with others when we do not treat others with respect. When we put out hurt, hurt comes back to us.
Some say respect is earned. This could not be further from the truth when it comes to respecting another’s personhood. This kind of respect is a basic human right.
We have an equal respect for both self and others because we are all innately good, important and valuable.
Respect involves practicing the Golden Rule, which says to treat others as we would want them to treat us. Better yet, respectful people practice the Platinum Rule, which says to treat others according to what is good for them. Respecting others is thus part of the practice of love.
Being humble, we realize we are all equally deserving of being treated with respect. Respectful people do not hurt or take advantage of others. They do not exploit others for their own benefit. They take responsibility for policing themselves, setting rules for themselves for how they treat others. They take a life vow of “no harm.”
Practicing respect allows for others to trust us, for they know we will not hurt them. In addition to building trust, respect also generates good will, as it is human nature to want to do well for someone that does well for us.
When we are respectful, we respect each other’s needs. Since everyone else wants to be listened to and understood, we listen carefully to others and try to understand. Since everyone wants to be affirmed and validated as innately good, we affirm and validate others as innately good. Since everyone wants to be asked rather than ordered around, we ask for what we want others to do. Since everyone else wants to be given choices, we give others choices. When we are respectful, we respect these universal human needs.
We show our respect in a thousand daily acts of kindness, consideration, and courtesy.
Just as anger begets anger, Disrespect begets disrespect. If someone disrespects us, we need to break the cycle of disrespect. We respectfully insist on being respected, telling the other person we are uncomfortable with their behavior. If the other ignores our request, we end the interaction.
If we are angry, we do not hurtfully lash out at others. If we feel we are about to lose control, we remove ourselves, take a time out to cool down, and perhaps process our concerns with someone. When we are settled and clear, we respectfully address others’ disrespectful behaviors respectfully. We are polite, because being rude is disrespectful, and being disrespectful is not an option.
When we are respectful, we request rather than demand. We don’t pressure or coerce others unless this is a mandate of our job, such as if we are a police officer. Even then, we use coercive force only as a last resort.
Respectful people are not only considerate and courteous in their actions, they are also respectful in their speech, taking care not to cause harm. They show sensitivity for people’s feelings, being careful not to invoke embarrassment, shame, or humiliation. They do not insult others. They do not ridicule or tease others. They do not talk negatively about other people behind their backs (gossip). Though they may have a negative judgment of an action, they withhold negative judgments of others. They also do not prejudge people before they get to know them. They do not jump to negative conclusions before knowing all the facts (this is called “contempt prior to investigation”). Respectful people are not contemptuous of others.
Respectful people hold everyone in proper regard as human beings. They respect people’s basic dignity and everyone’s right to be different from us. Showing respect means respecting that other people have different values and beliefs than we do. Respectful people don’t demand that others think, feel, or believe as they do. Respectful people live and let live, and agree to disagree.
We show respect through our integrity. We tell the truth, keep our word, do what we say we will do, and arrive on time. We build trust and good will in others by acting with integrity.
Since respect springs from humility, and humble people accept and value themselves and others for who they are, it is a sign of respect to accept people for who they are.
Respectful people show gratitude and appreciation for the good that others do. They give specific praise when praise is due.
Respectful people respect boundaries. They do not intrude into the privacy of others beyond the boundaries of the relationship. They mind their own business, avoiding prying into affairs that are not their concern. If they wish for information from others, they ask for it, respecting the other person’s right to say “no.”
To practice being respectful, we need to first practice humility, or our respect will not be authentic.
Through the daily practice of balanced acceptance of self and others, balanced appreciation of self and others, and balanced care for self and others, we develop a strong social network of respectful people who trust and value us in response to our valuing them. Practicing respect changes our lives for the better.