Respect is a positive feeling of admiration or deference for a person, child, non-human animal, or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem. Respect can be a specific feeling of regard for the actual qualities of the one respected (e.g., "I have great respect for her judgment"). It can also be conduct in accord with a specific ethic of respect.
Respect can be both given and/or received. Depending on an individual's cultural reference frame, respect can be something that is earned. Respect is often thought of as earned or built over time. Often, continued caring interactions are required to maintain or increase feelings of respect among individuals. Chivalry, by some definitions, contains the outward display of respect.
Respect should not be confused with tolerance. The antonym of respect is disrespect.
Definition of respect for kids:
"What is respect" is a big concept to grasp. Try this definition of respect for kids, written in terms children can understand, and with examples of what is respect for others and what is respect for self.
A definition of respect includes 1) how you feel about someone and 2) how you treat him/her.
Respect is how you feel about someone
Having respect for someone means you think good things about who a person is or how he/she acts. You can have respect for others, and you can have respect for yourself.
Respect is how you treat someone
Showing respect to someone means you act in a way that shows you care about their feelings and well-being.
Showing respect for others include things like not calling people mean names, treating people with courtesy, caring enough about yourself that you don't do things you know can hurt you.
Examples of what respect is:
- You admire (respect) a historical figure who stood up for what she believed in, even when it was hard.
- You are quiet in a library to show that you care about (respect) others' need to read without interruption.
- You follow your parents' rules to show them you care (respect) how they feel about the situation.
- You don't call people names because you care about (respect) their feelings.
- You don't hit or otherwise hurt people because you care about (respect) their well-being.
- You dress, speak, and act in a way that shows you care about what you know is right and safe, because you care about (respect) yourself and your well-being.
- You don't interfere with other people's right to look, think, or act differently than you because you care about (respect) their feelings and well-being.
So what is respect?
- Respect is thinking and acting in a positive way about yourself or others.
- Respect is thinking and acting in a way that shows others you care about their feelings and their well-being.
What Is Respect?
June 12, 2014
Respect often seems like a meaningful and powerful word. We claim that we want others to treat us with respect, and we dislike it when others show us disrespect. But what’s the real meaning of this word?
The word respect has a number of definitions — feel free to look it up if you’d like — but in the context of relating to the beliefs of others, the most basic and fitting definition is to have “due regard” for the other person’s beliefs.
What does that mean?
Due regard means paying attention to another person’s beliefs. To regard something is to look at it. The Latin origin of the word respect also means “to look back.” Respect is just observation. To respect a belief is to observe it — to acknowledge its existence.
So the word respect doesn’t actually pack a lot of punch. It really just means looking at another person’s beliefs. You don’t have to like those beliefs. You may even think they’re stupid. But you can still respect someone’s beliefs merely by acknowledging that such beliefs exist. That a pretty low bar, wouldn’t you say?
What about the flip side?
Interestingly, the word disrespect isn’t merely the opposite of respect. Disrespect packs more punch.
To disrespect someone’s beliefs could mean ignoring those beliefs entirely, but more commonly, it means showing a lack of courtesy — i.e. being impolite. Being impolite means not showing good manners. And manners are social expectations.
So basically, if you violate other people’s expectations of how they believe you should behave towards them, that’s considered being disrespectful.
The opposite of disrespect is often what gets transplanted to supplement the rather weak definition of respect.
Consequently, the common meaning of respect is to behave as other people feel you should behave. If you violate others’ expectations in certain ways, then you’re being disrespectful. If you behave the way others feel you should behave, then you’re being respectful.
So respect is actually a form of obedience. Doesn’t that make sense in a way? Aren’t the most obedient people typically considered the most respectful? And isn’t disobedience often labeled as disrespectful?
Eye of the Beholder
Respect is very much an “eye of the beholder” concept. What one person sees as respectful could be interpreted as disrespectful by another, and vice versa. So if someone behaves as you believe people should behave, that’s a show of respect. If someone violates your expectations in ways you dislike, you may interpret that as a sign of disrespect. And from your perspective, you’d always be right.
By these definitions I could label myself as either highly respectful or highly disrespectful. On the one hand, I definitely pay attention to other people’s beliefs. I certainly don’t ignore how others think, feel, and behave. I often like to delve into someone’s beliefs when I’m getting to know them. So in that sense, I’m very respectful. I consciously observe.
On the other hand, I frequently violate other people’s expectations of how I should behave. I don’t feel compelled to follow social norms. This is often deliberate. I recognize the expected behaviors, and I consciously choose not to adhere to them. To many people this is a very disrespectful thing to do.
One person may love that I like to be honest and direct and may hold me in high regard for that. Another person may perceive me as being discourteous for the exact same behavior. Within their own frames, they’d both be right.
Since the definitions of respect and disrespect are personal, I’ll share a personal example for you to chew on.
I think it’s wrong to forcibly impregnate, to cage, and to slaughter animals. So if someone supports this system, such as by buying animal products in restaurants or grocery stores, then they’re automatically disrespecting my beliefs. Note that I don’t feel the same about people who would hunt animals for food to survive in the wild. While I wouldn’t do that myself, I don’t automatically consider such people as being disrespectful towards my beliefs or disrespectful towards animals. But to support modern factory farming, there’s no way around it — that’s about as disrespectful as a person can get. It’s disrespectful towards animals. It’s disrespectful towards the environment. And it’s personally disrespectful towards my beliefs. Such behavior goes pretty far beyond being impolite and discourteous.
When a meat eater tells me they respect my beliefs, from their perspective they may also be right. They may require nothing more to satisfy that definition than to observe that I’m a vegan, which is pretty easy to do. But at the same time, they also qualify for my definition of disrespect.
If someone who enjoys killing people’s pets decides to refrain from killing any pets in front of you as a show of respect for your beliefs, would you give such a person credit for their politeness and courtesy? Maybe you would… I dunno. I’d be more concerned with what they’re doing to the pets — relative to that, it’s inconsequential whether or not they’re committing such violent acts in my presence.
Now would a meat eater determine that what I just shared is a sign of disrespect towards them? That depends on the person. I’m sure many would find me disrespectful. They may determine that I’m not behaving as they believe I should behave. Perhaps in their views, I’m not allowed to say that I consider supporting factory farming a show of disrespect towards my beliefs. How could I say something like that? It not only impolite and discourteous… it’s downright rude!
Then again, I’m sharing my honest thoughts and feelings on my own website and social media pages. I don’t go posting this anywhere else, although other people are free to reshare it. It’s not like I’m chasing anyone down and pushing these ideas onto them. People have to seek me out and choose to engage with me. The meat eaters who might take issue with this are always coming to me.
I see honesty as one of the highest forms of respect. I feel that I’m respecting people far more by being as honest and open as I can as I share my path of personal growth. I think it would be disrespectful to pretend to be someone I’m not, to present a false image of myself even if it’s more socially acceptable.
Can I still respect someone that I feel is disrespectful of my beliefs? I don’t see why not. I have too many readers to expect all of them to respect my beliefs. I think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to adhere to my ethical standards. That said, I feel it would be quite phony to pretend that I feel my beliefs are being respected by those who think it’s fine to support the rape, confinement, and slaughter of animals. What does it matter if they’re doing it in front of me or not?
Is it automatically a show of disrespect to tell someone that you feel disrespected by them? I don’t think so. I think it can actually be a powerful show of respect to do this. I don’t feel my meat eating friends show any respect for my beliefs when they willingly support of a system that is so incredibly unethical, corrupt, and harmful in my view. I don’t feel I’m being at all disrespectful towards them in saying that. In fact, I believe I’m being very respectful. I honor them enough to share my truth with them.
And again, this isn’t forced upon anyone. I share this only with those who willingly choose to engage with my work. I don’t chase anyone down and push these ideas onto them. I’m not a hunter.
I know that many meat eaters consider it a show of respect to tone down their flesh consumption in the presence of vegetarians or vegans. I’m sure some veg*ans appreciate that. Personally it makes little difference to me in terms of feeling respected — it’s a drop in the bucket if I know they’ll go right on supporting factory farming when I’m not around. I’d actually consider it more honest if they didn’t make such adjustments on my behalf. If they genuinely feel like sharing a vegan meal together, great. But if they’d rather have animal products and are toning down the carnivore behavior because they want to be respectful of my beliefs, I don’t actually give them any meaningful credit for that. It doesn’t make me feel any more respected.
That said, I do actually prefer it when meat eaters don’t eat flesh in front of me, but that’s because I find the sight and smell of rotting flesh kinda disgusting — especially the smell of dead fish. So I will give them some courtesy credit for not nauseating me.
What does respect mean to you? What would you consider disrespectful? Do you believe that telling someone you feel disrespected is necessarily a show of disrespect? Or could such honesty be a deeper show of respect, perhaps even an invitation to connect on a whole new level?
You, of course, have the freedom to make your own determinations about which behaviors you consider to be respectful vs. disrespectful. And whatever you decide, you’re right.
RESPECT: WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
What is respect? While it may be easy to recognize the absence of respect, it's not nearly so easy to define and reflect respect in our daily interactions with people. By definition, respect means to demonstrate "high regard" for or special attention to something or someone. However, this definition alone does not provide us guidance about what that something is or how it is done.
The requirements for respect must be considered from both a social and individual perspective. We learn the basic social guidelines for respect as children. The parental directives to play nice, share with others, say please, thank you, and you're welcome, lay the foundation for respectful interactions with others in life. These basics combined with community consensus about respectful behavior define standards to guide our interactions with others.
Respect is individually defined for each person through personal experience.
Our personal definitions of respect are influenced by our personality, emotions, preferences, and cultural context. Each of these elements may be difficult to define in the clearest and most objective terms. Even people without disabilities have difficulty describing and explaining personal criteria for respect tied to these variables. We often learn about these things over time through relationships with people. Respect requires struggling to understand each person's individual expectations for respect as we get to know them and build shared experiences over time.
When seeking to understand how other people see and interpret the world around them, dialogue is our most effective tool. The active exchange of ideas and opinions provides insight into the most important variables that define individual expectations for respect. To make this process work, we need to avoid judging people and actions by our personal standards of conduct and open up to learning about the world from another's perspective. It is a challenge to address respect in the service process. Respect is reflected in every aspect of service processes and relationships - environments, interactions, supports, and resources. Everything from the selection and arrangement of furniture and the selection of support activities, to the allocation of staff and resources can reflect the importance we assign to people receiving services and their needs. Balancing professional priorities with individual needs and requirements in a way that communicates maximum respect for people demands constant reflection on the meaning our actions convey.
The demonstration of true individual respect cannot be accomplished without investment of self and some personal risk. Respect is something we must regularly practice and rarely master. It is a product of our ability to relate to others in ways that consider their priorities important - and mistakes in this process are often our best learning tool. Our continued attention to each person is essential to building a foundation of experience that supports an atmosphere of respect. Committing ourselves to reflecting the following beliefs in our daily interactions can help each of us get better at demonstrating the respect each person deserves.
- Everything we do, say, and provide to others makes a statement about our regard for them.
- Respectful interactions do not draw undue or negative attention to a person's difference or disability.
- Demonstrating concern and support for individual difference sets the stage for communicating our respect for others.