Importance of Respect

We hear the word respect often, but have you ever stopped to think about what it means? Everyone can agree that respect is an important concept, but sometimes it’s a good idea to stop and think about why.

In our handy guide to this fundamental tenet, we’re going to delve deep into the idea of respect. We’ll discuss things like giving it and getting it, and what respect looks like. We’ll also talk about respect in the workplace, how to teach children these values, and what to do when you feel disrespected.

What Is Respect?

The dictionary gives us a helpful definition of a word that can seem somewhat difficult to define. It lists two different explanations for respect. One is “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” The second definition is “due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.”

Based on these descriptions, we can see that there are two parts to respect: how you feel about another human being (or yourself) and how you treat them (or yourself). How you feel about another has to do with thinking positively about that person. How you treat them is about behaving in a way that shows you’re considerate of their feelings and well-being.

Some synonyms for respect include esteem, regard, consideration, and attentiveness, both personally and for others. As such, it’s a fundamental quality in our interpersonal relationships, at work, and in our personal identity.

Why Is Respect Important?

Every individual on this earth is unique, which means that the possibility of differences between us is infinite. Respect is fundamental in promoting equality and harmony among humans that have distinct belief systems, cultures, and religions. Respect is so important that this tenet is at the core of everything laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Without it, getting along is very challenging, if not downright impossible. More often than not, a lack of respect leads to frustration, hurt, and conflict. Respect for others is critical in maintaining harmonious relationships.

When we are considerate and kind to others, we can create safe, nurturing, and productive environments, whether that’s at home, school, or work. Respect is so important because it eliminates the fear of judgment, discrimination, and embarrassment. And having esteem for yourself and others has benefits for yourself: it makes for a happier, healthier you.

Types of Respect

There are many different types of respect we exhibit in our daily lives. Some of those include respecting social norms, being tolerant of others, and being polite to others. Though creating an exhaustive list here would be quite challenging, here are several types of respect to give you an idea of what they are.

Respect for Others

Respect for others is the type of respect that probably comes to mind for most people. It’s all about treating fellow human beings with dignity despite our differences. These differences might be things like the way you think, your financial resources, or where you come from. Respect for others means being inclusive of all religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations, etc.


Self-respect means accepting yourself and what makes you who you are, even if others don’t. At its core, it’s an appreciation for you as a person. When it comes to self-respect, there’s a lot to discuss. We’ll go over the basics and how it can help you lead a happier life and be better-regarded by others later in the article.


Social respect refers to the observance of social norms in society, or what our culture expects of us and considers to be polite. There are many ways we respect others by observing social rules:

  • By shaking hands when we meet someone new
  • Saying hello when walking into a room
  • Respecting others’ personal space
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Dressing appropriately for the setting you’re in


Family respect is about valuing family members, even if you might feel different from them, to be able to coexist peacefully.


Cultural respect is understanding that your culture is just one of many and accepting that others may think or do things differently than you do. When we have respect for other cultures, we respect their beliefs and avoid imposing our own on them.


We respect society by following the law: paying our taxes, observing traffic laws like not speeding or driving drunk, refraining from stealing, etc.


We respect nature by admiring and taking care of all aspects of nature, such as animals, forests, lakes, etc. Some of the ways we do this are by being kind to animals and not disturbing them, by recycling and disposing of our trash properly in natural environments, and by being responsible with water.

Earned Respect vs. Universal Respect

Aside from the various types of respect outlined above, we can also talk about two commonly recognized types: universal and earned respect.

Universal Respect

When we talk about universal respect, we’re referring to having esteem for fellow human beings. Universal respect is what parents teach their children: to share their toys with other kids at school, not to touch others’ things without permission, and to give up their seat to an older person or a pregnant woman.

Universal respect is the respect that everyone deserves based on merely being a human being. It’s about treating others with compassion and understanding that they have a value that is worth your time. By doing so, you acknowledge other people’s significance as a human.

Earned Respect

Earned respect, on the other hand, is given only to people we deem “worthy” in some way or another. It’s usually given because of something they have that we esteem, such as fame, power, looks, abilities, or money. Or they might have done something to earn respect: think presidents, Nobel Prize winners, human rights activists, or military leaders.

It’s clear that we should respect presidents and military leaders based on their status, but our contact with these individuals is generally less. Teachers, bosses, and leaders are examples of people with earned respect that we have greater contact with. These individuals earn it not just once, but through demonstrating their admirable actions every day—generally through service.

What Respect Looks Like

All of this talk about respect may seem somewhat abstract. So how do you know if a friendship or a relationship is built around this tenet?

Respect in relationships is demonstrated by what we do on a daily basis; it’s the way you speak to and treat one another. It has to do with allowing the other person space to be who they are and recognizing that they’re not yours to control.

When we respect friends and partners, we value them and love them for all their good qualities and bad ones—even in the face of disagreements. Here are some signs of respect in healthy relationships:

  • You feel protected around one another
  • Each person feels free to be who they are
  • You listen calmly and without yelling during disagreements
  • You can talk about what you need and want without fear
  • Neither person controls the other
  • You give the other person space when they need it
  • You can admit when you’re wrong

What Disrespect Looks Like

Disrespect can sometimes make its way into relationships, often without us realizing it. And when it’s a romantic partner, recognizing this behavior can be very difficult indeed. A “friend” or “partner” who acts this way toward you does the opposite of the things above.

So how do you know what disrespect looks like? Are you unsure of whether a friend or a partner is acting disrespectful toward you? Here are a few signs of disrespect:

  • Not listening to the other person
  • Constantly interrupting
  • Talking down to the other person
  • Being left out of important decisions
  • Constant tardiness
  • Talking behind your back
  • Lying

What Disrespect Feels Like

Based on these signs, we can see that disrespect is a lack of concern for someone’s feelings, well-being, or dignity. Just the way our daily habits show respect for another person, they also show disrespect. So what does it feel like when someone disrespects you?

If respect is about accepting another person for who they are, disrespect is a form of rejection. What this rejection feels like depends mainly on the relationship you have, or whether or not you care about the opinions of anyone witnessing the situation. Mostly, it hurts. It can feel like hatred or indifference that devalues and insults you.

Authority figures may have a harder time than most when they feel they are being disrespected. People like police officers, teachers, or doctors may struggle with this feeling, which is often the case because they think that they are owed respect.

We can avoid needlessly inflicting harm on others by learning to be more respectful and influencing others to act this way, too.

Ways to Teach Respect

At times, we exhibit respect, and other times we don’t. We must make an effort to be respectful and teach our children to act this way, too. Teaching respect is arguably one of the most critical jobs for parents.

The best way to teach respect is by demonstrating it. Children mimic the behavior they see, and it’s impossible for your child to respect you—or others—if you fail to display the conduct you want them to emulate.

We know that adults respect people who are respectful toward them, and the same holds true for kids. This idea doesn’t change simply because we’re responsible for our children or because they are young.

If you’re looking for some concrete ideas, here are some ways you can teach respect to your children.

Remain Calm

Anyone who has ever spent time with a young child knows how frustrating they can be. Dealing with kids might make you want to yell or lose your temper from time to time, but it’s critical to remain calm. Keeping your cool and maintaining a calm tone, even in the most frustrating moments, shows respect.

Accept Your Child

We’ve touched a bit on acceptance being a fundamental way to show respect in relationships and friendships, and this idea holds when it comes to your children. You are responsible for their well-being and upbringing, but you are not the ruler of their personality or actions. Realize that the only person you have complete control over is yourself. Accept your kids as they are.

Accepting them as they are means not forcing your way of doing things on them. It means letting them pave their own path and make their own decisions, even if they are decisions you don’t understand. When you accept children for who they are, they feel valued and respected. They also get a firsthand look at how they should treat others who are different than they are.

Set Boundaries

Children are always trying to see how much they can get away with, which is where setting limits becomes critical to making sure they make the right choices. Clear boundaries give a child explicit guidelines for what’s right and what’s wrong. If they cross a line, calmly tell them what behavior was unacceptable and what you expect from them moving forward.

Say Sorry

Just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you’re right all the time. Parents are people too, and they’re not perfect. You’re bound to make a mistake or two when raising your kids, and saying sorry when you do shows humility. It also shows your children that you respect them enough to apologize.

Recognize Respectful Behavior

In the same way you must recognize and correct undesirable behaviors, you should also acknowledge when your child does exhibit respectful behavior. Clearly identifying and praising positive actions inspires your child to repeat them.

Don’t Tolerate Disrespect from Them

Just as important as teaching your child to respect others is teaching them to respect you. Don’t let them take advantage of you, and don’t let them talk to you brazenly. Make clear to your child that you won’t tolerate disrespect from them. It’s important to note that the higher your self-esteem, the easier it is to gain respect from your child.

Avoid Negative Labels

Though it can be tempting to use labels to describe your child in a challenging moment, refrain from doing so. Categorically labeling them things like “bad” or “incapable” damages their self-esteem, and it also encourages a disrespectful attitude.

Instead of saying that they are a bad boy or girl, talk about why what they did was incorrect. For example, tell them, “hitting your brother is wrong,” instead of “you’re always doing bad things.” Always separate the behavior from the identity of the child, and you will avoid judgment that can have lasting damaging effects.


Respect is more than valuing and appreciating others; the respect you have for yourself is just as crucial. It’s the foundation for a healthy life, as well as one of the best ways to get others to treat you well. Here are some ways to develop respect for yourself.

Treat Your Body Well

Taking care of your body is the most basic of ways to show respect for yourself, which means trying as hard as possible to exercise and eat nutritious meals. The utmost care is what your body deserves, and developing these healthy habits will help you live a long and healthy life.

Treating your body well also means taking care of your hygiene: grooming and cleanliness, and perhaps make-up if you’re a woman. When you smell or look unkempt, it gives the impression that you don’t respect yourself. Others can also interpret poor personal hygiene as a lack of respect toward them, making it harder for them to respect you.

Use Kind Words

Think of someone you admire greatly. Do they use negative language frequently? It’s unlikely that they do because positive language is the hallmark of well-respected people. If you want others to admire you, too, take care with the language you use and always speak kind words—both about yourself and others.

Show Respect to Others

The adage “treat others the way you want to be treated” has held up because it’s true. You respect yourself by respecting others, which means you are more likely to receive the same treatment in return.

Be Confident

It’s hard to admire a meek person you can barely hear and whose body language indicates defeat or nervousness. Respect yourself by speaking loudly and clearly, making eye contact with the person you’re talking to, and being confident. Confidence is a sure way to earn the respect of others.

Stand Up for Yourself

Show others that you respect yourself by standing up to someone who is belittling you. Make it known when you feel disrespected or if someone has hurt your feelings by calling out the behavior. Say clearly, “When you did X, I felt disrespected.” Insist that you won’t tolerate such words or actions in the future, which will help avoid repeat situations of disrespectfulness.

Similarly, don’t allow others to take advantage of you, and always say no if something doesn’t feel right.

Respect in the Workplace

Addressing respect in the workplace is necessary since we spend the most considerable part of our day at work. Whether you own the business, are a boss, or are an employee, respect in the workplace is critical. It makes coming to work better for everyone. Respect decreases conflict and stress, increases productivity, and contributes to positive workplace culture.

So how do we encourage this trait in the workplace, regardless of our status? We can be respectful at work in many of the same ways that we are courteous outside of it; the same skill set applies. However, we should pay attention to the following to create the most harmonious work experience possible.

Speak Politely

Speak to your coworkers in a polite manner. Rude, coarse dialogue has no place at work. This type of speech makes people dread coming to work. It also makes it difficult for people to do their best. Always communicating in a civil way goes a long way toward developing positivity and respect in your workplace.

Control Your Temper

While controlling our temper is vital to leading a pleasant life outside of work, it’s especially crucial from nine to five. Aggressive, angry coworkers create hostile work environments. If you struggle with keeping your cool, learn what things trigger you. For example, you may find that a particular situation or coworker sparks angry behavior, and you should avoid it or the person.

If you’re an employer, encourage your employees to let the small stuff go. And if you identify anyone you think may need help controlling their anger, meeting privately with that individual to discuss anger management techniques can be beneficial.

Help Others

The respectful discourse that we mentioned above is the first way to have a more respectful work environment. Courteous dialogue is crucial in making people feel more sure of themselves when sharing with coworkers. The next step is helping others. Being supportive, helpful, and encouraging others is a fantastic way to show respect at work.

Avoid Judging Others

Lastly, judgment is the opposite of respect and a fast way to kill positive workplace vibes, which is why you should strive to avoid judging others. Negative talk, gossip, and judgment all encourage dissent, and they stop people from forming relationships. This type of speech can also cause productivity issues that can ultimately be detrimental to your work performance.

Ways to Deal with a Lack of Respect

In a perfect world, everyone would be thoughtful and considerate of the people around them, and everybody would get along and never feel disrespected. Unfortunately, this utopia still doesn’t exist, which means it’s more likely than not that you’ll find yourself in a situation where you feel disrespected at one time or another.

So what should you do when you encounter this situation? What’s the best way to deal with it?

Is there any way to flip disrespect on its head?

While there is no one answer about how to remedy a lack of respect, there are some steps you can take. Here are several ways to overcome this type of situation:

  • Kill ‘em with kindness—or in this case, respect. It can be hard to be rude to someone who isn’t being nasty back, so don’t sink to their level—even if it’s tough not to do so. Demonstrate what respect is by keeping your head high and acting the right way.
  • Make an effort to understand the other person’s point of view. Don’t assume you know what’s going on with the other person, and make time to really listen to what they are saying. Open dialogue can go a long way toward resolving conflict and achieving a more peaceful relationship. You may learn something that surprises you.
  • Be clear about what aspects of the person’s behavior are disrespectful. Different people have different ideas about what respect means. They may not have realized that you would consider their actions rude, so communicate to them why they hurt your feelings.
  • Allow them the opportunity to change their behavior. We all make mistakes, and sometimes we regret behaving disrespectfully. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt and allow them the chance to behave differently.
  • And if all else fails, end the relationship. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a bad situation has no remedy. If you find yourself at a dead-end and need to cut ties, remember that it’s your right to end friendships that make you feel unsafe and disrespected.

How to Respect Others

So how do we take all this and implement it? How do we show respect for other people? Mostly, respect is about common sense—treating others the way you would want to be treated. It would be difficult to mention all of the ways we can respect others, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Don’t spread rumors
  • Apologize
  • Get consent before a sexual act
  • Be considerate of others’ time and resources
  • Say please and thank you
  • Learn about respect in different cultures

Now It’s Time for Some Self-Reflection

What does respect mean to you?

Think about times you’ve felt both respected and disrespected by others. How did you feel? You probably felt quite different in each scenario. Now think about how you treat the people in your life. Do you think those closest to you would agree that you hold them in high esteem? If not, how can you work to change this perception?

It’s never a bad thing to remind ourselves of the importance of respect. Amazing things can happen when we all do a little self-reflection and ask ourselves how we can be more respectful. It’s impossible to always get it right, but an open heart, good intentions, and effective communication are a good start. The power of change lies with us.

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