So what is respect anyway?  Generally defined, it s a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by a strength of character, adherence to values, abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Respect is also a positive way of communicating (both spoken and unspoken)  which can build strong relationships not only with other people in your life, but in your most important relationship; the one  you have with yourself.  True respect is one of those things that cannot be bought.  It must be earned.

Self-respect  can be defined as having pride, confidence and an overall feeling that you are behaving with honor and dignity. It does not make you narcissistic, conceited,  or self-centered.  In fact, it does the opposite. Self-respect is about having a sense of self-worth and self-love to show that you are worthy of receiving love and in turn, giving love.   Remember, you cannot give what you don’t have.   Self-respect is a necessary part of a healthy relationship.

If you don’t respect yourself, others may pick up on it and will often follow suit in spite of your role, achievements, accolades or accomplishments.    And, while you cannot force someone to respect you, you can definitely take steps not to be disrespected!

The feeling of being disrespected is one of those things that often vexes people. Who has any tolerance for it? Willingly subjecting yourself to disrespectful people can cause a plethora of problems, including poor self-esteem and bottled up anger. To be sure, most us us feel disrespected at some time in our lives but how do we know if it was that or something else?   Jumping to conclusions about whether you are being disrespected (when you are not) can cause even more problems.

Disrespect comes in various forms and is subjective to each individual. It often happens in such an insidious manner that you don’t realize you are unknowingly giving the leeway to be treated like this. The more you tolerate such behavior, the more you are allowing it.  This allowance may come from a place within you where you don’t respect yourself enough to feel you deserve better and lack the confidence to stand up for yourself.  When you are constantly perceiving others as disrespecting you, it’s also possible that you may have accepted and allowed that treatment for a long time because you have  not respected yourself enough to confront it.

What you allow is what will continue unless you nip it in the bud.  Again, a key question really revolves around whether the issue is truly one of disrespect.  Is it just me…..or not?    Could there be some other reason that you are being treated in this way?

For example, a person often feels disrespected when, for example, his or her child does not do as they are told. However, does the child say, “I want to disrespect my parent by not doing as I am told?” I doubt that very seriously. The problem here is the parent views the behavior as “disrespectful,” instead of considering that there may be many reasons the child does not do as he/she is told perhaps they simply don’t want to do it, they have ADHD, they have some other strong negative feeling.

Another person might feel disrespected when he is cut off in traffic. He might say, “I can’t believe how inconsiderate that guy is!” This type of thinking is what starts road rage incidents everyday. However, if he were to take a step back and think about the situation, there is a fair chance that the other driver did not see him because he was in a hurry to get to the hospital, or he was distracted by his young child. Yes, it is also possible that he was cut off on purpose, but this is rarely the case.

The number of explanations for “disrespectful” behaviors are numerous. I encourage everyone to look at the actions behind these behaviors. A lot of people behave in a “disrespectful” manner because they are frightened, they might trying to look tough to cover insecurities, they are blind to their own behavior, or they are simply angry in general. If you immediately tell yourself that you are being disrespected when a person does not behave the way you want them to, remind yourself that you may be jumping to conclusions. Consider alternative reasons the person is acting this way. Practice giving the benefit of the doubt until verified.  Few people make it a goal to disrespect others.

Here are some other ways to determine whether you are being disrespected.  A person who does not respect you may:

  • Belittle Your Beliefs/Opinions – A person who respects you will often agree to disagree. They don’t have to believe or agree with your point of view but they must allow you to have your own and respect it even if it is different from theirs.
  • Cheat or Lie-This one is a no-brainer. Even though the person may love, care or want you in your life but if they lie or cheat on you, they absolutely don’t respect you. I know there are a million reasons why people cheat and lie but sneaking around doing things behind your back is extremely upsetting and disrespectful. An honest person gathers the courage to say the truth and then deals with the consequences.
  • Not Listen to You – No matter what you say and how right or valuable your advice is, they always turn a deaf ear. They don’t acknowledge your feelings and always run from confrontation, become silent or talk you down. You frequently feel like you can’t get anything through them and communicating with them is such a daunting task. They constantly interrupt you when it is your turn to talk and won’t let you complete what you want to say.
  • Turn the Tables on You-No matter what the situation is they often turn the tables on you. They justify their behavior and don’t shy away from making it all your fault every single time. They don’t listen or give you a chance to explain your side of the story. Even if you do express your side they make it all about how irrational or unreasonable you are for having unrealistic expectations and totally invalidate your feelings. You are never able to freely communicate and sometimes choose to keep quiet to avoid conflict.
  • Regardless of What You Do – It is Never Enough! – No matter what you do for them you always get the feeling that it is not enough. They never appreciate anything you ever do or even pay attention to know that you are trying your best. Whether it is an achievement at work and all you are looking for is to hear “I am proud of you” and a pat on the back. Maybe you try to change certain behavioral traits they are unhappy with. They simply don’t value your efforts, always seem to take you for granted and it  seems like a bottomless pit of steaming BS.

Before responding to these types of situations, consider the following questions:

  • Will (whatever makes me angry) matter one year from now?
  • Will it matter one week from now?
  • What right do I have that is being violated?
  • How would the average person respond to this?
  • How is getting angry about this really going to change anything
  • Other than anger, what else am I feeling? (betrayal)
  • What belief do I have that is making me angry? Is that belief reasonable?
  • What is really causing this person to behave in a matter that makes me angry?
  • Have I in some way allowed and accepted this behavior on an ongoing basis?

What if you are the one who is acting disrespectfully?  Nobody is perfect!  Here are some ways to unwind from acting this way:

  • Recognize when you are engaging or have engaged disrespectfully.  Take a step back and consider your reasons for doing so and how you can act in a more respectful manner.
  • Apologize and make a commitment to behave in a better way next time!
  • Avoid beating yourself up.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Beating yourself up will not move you forward.  Committing to and practicing better behavior in the future will.

Now that you have learned how to recognize disrespect and recognize whether you are treating others appropriately, it is time to move on to ways to demonstrate respect to yourself and others:

  1. Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it, the way you say you are going to do it. Keeping your word to others and to yourself is paramount in honoring your relationships with others and for honoring your most important relationship; the one you have with yourself.
  2. Maintain clarity and honesty. Keep life simple and be straight with people.
  3. Commit to things that are an absolute yes.  If something is not an absolute yes, it does not belong on your calendar.  Do yourself and others a favor by only committing to things that are important to you.  Again, if something is not an absolute yes, it is a NO. Saying NO  makes you a strong and respectable person. When you stop saying yes to things you don’t want to do, you create more time and energy to engage with the activities and people that do make you happy.
  4. Respect yourself by taking action around things that excite you. Taking action on the unknown can be scary. We are seldom guaranteed our ideal outcome and that can cause us anxiety.  However,  the most successful people I know aren’t afraid to try something new.   For example, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard and the rest is history. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began Apple in their garage.  How different would things be if they had chosen differently?
  5. Be yourself, everyone else is taken.  One of the only ways to stand out  from the pack is to be your idiosyncratic, real  self.  Easier said than done?  Consider this: all those folks you look up to have taken ownership of what sets them apart and leveraged it to their advantage. Besides, if you don’t own who you are, you blend in. What’s interesting about that?
  6. Set boundaries!  Setting your own boundaries gives others permission to do the same.  Figure out what is true for you, draw those lines and prevent violation by being clear about them with others.
  7. Apologize with self-respect.  Saying “I’m sorry” is seldom pleasant or easy, so if you’re going to do it at all, make it count! An important part of making an apology is learning not to make excuses. (that is simply disrespectful to the other person and to your integrity). Next time you’re tempted to plead your case, lay a hand on your heart, check in with that inner barometer and listen to the truth. If an apology is called for courageously, offer one (minus the excuses).
  8. Be willing to accept reality.You must be willing to see things and people as they are. It can be painful to acknowledge that there is a problem with ourselves, our loved ones, or a situation. But if you don’t deal with the problem with patience, curiosity and courteousness, your situation will be prolonged. And that is not very respectful of anyones time and energy. There may be times when the problem does not get resolved and you must simply move on agreeing to disagree.
  9. Put your health at the top of your list.  Our health, like everything else in our lives, is a relationship. The more we pay attention to it and nourish it, the more our minds and bodies thrive. Honor yourself and your loved ones by following through on annual exams, getting evaluated when something isn’t right, exercising and practicing sound nutritional habits.
  10. Remember that abilities and achievements can fail but qualities of character stay with you for a lifetime. At the top of your field? Are you a leader your company? Winning awards and accolades? Wealthy beyond your wildest imagination? “This too shall pass.” All things in life are transitional. The mighty will fall, you can’t take it with you, and nothing lasts forever. If you want to garner respect, do so when you are up, when you are down and when you are in the middle. To be a truly respected person, you don’t need trappings; you need the right actions.
  11. Rise to higher ground. It’s so much safer up there and the view is better.  There is less flooding and not as many people crowded around. In fact, so many people want to stay down at the lower levels and fight it out to show their strength that when you take the higher ground, you by definition are someone to be looked up to!
  12. Practice the golden rule!  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Support the people around you as you would like to be supported.  Encourage them in their experiences and pursuits.  Forgive early and often!


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