The Nuances of Treating Others with Respect

“a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements”

This definition comes straight from the New Oxford American Dictionary. It is accompanied with several other variations on the term, as well as a couple examples of its usage: The director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor.

When thinking of how to give respect to others, you might be familiar with the old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” For the most part, this phrase rings true. When we think about the ways in which we would like others to treat us, it makes sense to model that same behavior. But the problem with this idea is that it misses a very important aspect of people, which is that not everyone is the same.

This is why, of the Dignity & Respect Campaign’s 30 Tips, Tip No.6 is crucial: Treat others the way they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others.

You can look respect up in the dictionary, or you can define what it means to you. But neither of these will serve as one-size-fits-all solutions to interacting with other people.

Consider this simple example: Wanda is relatively carefree. She doesn’t place a lot of stock in timeliness and usually runs around 15-20 minutes late to meetings, appointments, or social dates. When other people are late to appointments with her, she is very forgiving and nonchalant about it – it doesn’t bother her at all. However, her new friend, Deb, feels differently about her time and is offended when people are late. She holds herself to different standards than Wanda and makes it a point to be on time, if not 5 minutes early, to every meeting. She feels disrespected by Wanda when she repeatedly shows up late.

Is either of these women wrong in the way they perceive tardiness? What can be done to amend this dynamic?

How to Show Respect for All
When we learn how others view respectfulness, we can apply this knowledge to our own actions. If a friend does not care for physical affection, then refrain from embracing him or her when you get together. Knowing these nuances can create better relationships or better interactions in general.

Be observant when you engage with others. If you perceive a negative reaction from someone regarding something you’ve said or done, then make note not to repeat it around that person again. By far the best way to show respect to others is to communicate with them. Ask the hard or uncomfortable questions to truly learn how others prefer to be treated. Listen fully when people communicate back to you.

It does not require a great amount of effort to have an awareness of others or to try to communicate. But that little bit of effort can reap great rewards, and will help you do your part in creating a better world for ALL to live.

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