Firstly, I’d just like to say that I believe respect to be the core foundation of any positive relationship and I also believe that respect, especially for a person as an individual, is incredibly undervalued in society today. I’d also like to mention that everyone is different, and as a result we can’t possibly expect to get along with someone if we only like and respect them for the labels we place on them or the assumptions we make about them.
Respect is an interesting concept. You can show respect for someones abilities with words like “That was very impressive, well done!” and really mean it, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that you respect them as a person, or individual. Respect for someone as an individual means accepting who they are, who they might be, what they do and what they might do in the future. Obviously it’s hard to know all of these things for sure, which is why respecting someone is essentially like having faith in them. Now you could be wrong about a person and they might, in your eyes, change for better or worse. This is not of major importance because if you respect yourself then you can accept that you could be wrong, things might change and that it’s ok either way.
Respect is very give and take. You’ll often get respect from those whom you respect and vice versa. The trouble we often run into is expecting or perhaps demanding respect without first offering it. Giving respect to someone as an individual – having faith in them – can feel a lot like giving the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve had in the past that might cause you to make assumptions about a person – allowing your assumptions to dictate the way you treat them is, in my eyes, incredibly disrespectful. I’ve seen it a lot between children and adults, where the adult will demand respect from the child in a totally disrespectful manner. These conversations tend to manifest from the assumption that ‘this is how you speak to children’ – as if there’s some sort of formula for dealing with a child like you were mixing concrete or calculating your tax return. I’ve often found that this demand for respect comes in varying forms of verbal and/or physical abuse, and the resultant behaviour from the child is either retaliatory or mindlessly obedient – neither of which I would view as healthy. I’ve seen it between couples, where one party is being totally unreasonable or difficult and just expecting the other person to know what they want without explanation. The response is, again, retaliation of some description, or mindless obedience. In both examples the underlying problem is the same. You have a child who is responding to a lack of respect with, you guessed it, a lack of respect, or perhaps they are too afraid to confront the disrespect and simply accept it. By doing this they are essentially admitting to themselves that they don’t deserve to be treated better. Having been a child in this situation, I know that sometimes you feel powerless to question things so you just accept the situation and the baggage that goes with it. Exactly the same applies to the couple, only in my experience irrational expectations are often caused by feeling disrespected in the first place – interesting thought huh?
In regard to these examples, my solution consists of two parts; firstly you have to respect your own feelings and values. I believe this is absolutely imperative to being able to respect others. If you don’t respect these things, or you compromise your values, the result is generally just giving in and quietly accepting the situation as mentioned in the example. If you only respect your own feelings then you end up retaliating in an attempt to defend yourself and your values – which brings me to part two; respecting the feelings of others. If you can do this then you put yourself in a position where, even though you may feel the desire to retaliate, (chances are they’ve said some hurtful things), you are able to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them accept that their feelings are their own. Whether you want to or are able to help them or not, your respect for their feelings will, at the very least, never worsen a situation. For couples it generally only takes one person to break the negative back and forth, and as time progresses I think you learn to help each other, even when you’re both having a bad time. In my experience with relationships of any kind, the ones that last do so because mutual respect is present. If one party in the relationship believes themselves to be above (or perhaps below) the other, a bitterness tends to develop between them that will inevitably end the relationship, often not on good terms. In the case of children (at least young children), I think it can be different and more difficult because the responsibility lies primarily with the adult to initiate a respectful interaction. You can’t teach someone to be truly respectful by demanding respect disrespectfully – am I right? I’d love to know what you think.
Thanks for reading!