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Respect is a word that is thrown out a lot. As children, our parents were always telling us to “show respect” and “respect our elders”. As we entered our formidable school years, teachers and counselors were always preaching “respect for others”, stressing the importance of being kind to everyone… especially those who seemed lost, lonely or struggling.
In fact, today many schools across the country have deemed October as anti-bullying month, coming up with school wide activities designed to stress the importance of respect. So why is respect important enough for our parents, mentors, educators – even the President of the United States – to feel the need to continuously shed light on it?
In a word: self-improvement. All of the reasons why respect is important boil down to this. Whether having respect for others leads to you being a better person, or being respected leads to you feeling better about yourself… respect is key to society’s forward progress and there are many ways to show it.
In this article, we are going to define respect and share 11 reasons why respect is important for everyone – whether you are on the giving or receiving end.
What is Respect?
There are a few variants when it comes to nailing down the dictionary definition of respect; however, they essentially get to the same point. Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. It’s how we treat others, based on our innate sense of human decency.
Respect is also a feeling we all want reciprocated. We want to be held in high regard and treated as if we are valued for who we are and what we’ve done.
Without respect, there would be chaos and dictatorships ruling the world… rather than the diplomacy we all strive for. There would be impatience and one-sided arguments. There would be an increase in low self-esteem issues and depression.
People need and deserve to be heard and respect is where it all starts. Respect is the foundation upon which interpersonal relationships and personal growth is built upon.
So with that in mind, here are 11 key reasons why respect is vital in this world we live in. With all that is going on, now is as good a time as any to teach it and preach it to everyone who will listen.
1. Respect Breeds Tolerance and Acceptance
Perhaps the most crucial reason why respect is important lies in tolerance and acceptance. In a world that is constantly changing its ideas of what is acceptable and what is not… we need to educate and prepare ourselves to step out of our comfort zones.
Many people no longer consider themselves simply gay or straight. Nor does everyone choose to be identified as male or female, but rather gender binary. There is no one religion we all follow and not all people conform to the same ideals. Not all people have access to the same freedoms, or the right to be seen as equals.
What this means for Others: If you have respect for these differences (whether you fully agree with them or not), you will display tolerance for them. That tolerance will not only lead to a level of acceptance within yourself, but you will set an example for others to follow. The more accepting we are as a society, the further we will progress in the right direction.
What this means for You: If you are someone who feels oppressed, or like an outsider, having someone respect you for the person you are can give you the courage you need to be brave and stand tall! Perhaps you’ll even be inspired to help others.
2. Respect Translates to Success
If you show others respect for their accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem at first, you will instill a sense of pride in them. This pride will encourage them to press on and believe in themselves. Eventually, they will come to believe that nothing is impossible and whatever they desire from life is within their grasp.
What this means for Others: Think about the way we cheer for a child after taking his first step. He smiles. He is then encouraged to take another… and another… and another.
Before long, he is walking across the room and, shortly after that, running into your arms when you get home from work. By simply respecting this milestone, you’ve given him the confidence he needs to succeed in all he sets out to do.
What this means for You: If someone says the words, “good job” to you… or compliments you on an idea or your behavior, you will immediately want to smile. Even if it’s just on the inside. Being recognized is a sign of respect for your efforts and a surefire way to give you the incentive to carry on.
3. Respect Makes You Are a Good Listener
When you respect others, you are telling them that they deserve to be heard. That their opinions and feelings matter. You will be able to recognize the difference between someone who wants your advice and someone who is simply looking to be listened to.
What this means for Others: When you respect other people, you follow their lead. You are on the lookout for verbal and physical cues, able to acknowledge when they are seeking a sounding board over your unsolicited opinion or take on things. They will be grateful to be heard and feel better about things.
What this means for You: When someone listens to you, really listens, you feel validated. As a result, your feelings of self-worth will escalate and you will believe that you are important to someone else. As humans, we all want to matter to another person.
4. Respect Fosters Give and Take Relationships
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “There is no ‘I’ in team”. When you respect others, there should be no expectations that your relationships will be one-sided. The best relationships – whether platonic, professional or romantic – consist of give and take. This is also known as compromise. It is hard to succeed on your own… and you shouldn’t have to.
What this means for Others: When you have respect for your friend, colleague or partner, you are telling them through your words and actions that the relationship means as much to you as it does them. For instance, if you decide you want to hang out with your friend on a Friday night and she suggests a movie, but you prefer to just grab a drink together… you compromise.
You suggest streaming a movie at your apartment, while sharing a bottle of wine. In doing so, you are showing respect for what she wants, which means you value the friendship.
What this means for You: A friend who has respect for you will frequently offer to reciprocate your words and gestures in an effort to show you that the feeling is mutual. Your relationship is a symbiotic one and their respect for you means that will never come into question.
5. Respect Sets Healthy Boundaries
If you are a compassionate or empathetic person, one of the hardest things to do is know when to leave someone alone. It’s hard to give them space, when all you want to do is be there for them and help figure out what is going on. But by respecting boundaries, you are given them the time they need to open up on their terms.
What this means for Others: If you notice that your husband comes home from work in a foul mood, respect means you simply say “hello” and perhaps greet him with the usual kiss. From there, it’s a waiting game. Wait for him to come to you and let you know what’s going on… when he’s ready.
As much as we love to self-sabotage, chances are what is bothering your spouse has nothing to do with you. Sometimes people just need some time to figure things out on their own, and by respecting that, they may just get there faster.
What this means for You: There are days when you may feel like you want to be alone or simply need a break from reality for just a little while. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom who just needs to have lunch with a friend without feeling guilty… or you're unhappy at work and need time to figure out what would change that.
If someone respects you, they will follow your queues and give you what you need, without judgment or prying. In the end, you will emerge, refreshed and possibly have a new outlook on things – without feeling like you let anyone down.
6. Respect Leads to Honesty
If you truly respect someone, you don’t lie to them. Even white lies, which we often tell ourselves are meant to spare another person’s feelings, can backfire. In the end, if you can’t trust someone, the relationship will suffer.
Lies are like taking someone’s leg out in a fight. If you tell them just one, they feel hurt… if you tell them another, they will fall and begin to question their resilience.
What this means for Others: If you tell people the truth, even if it’s difficult to hear, they will trust you. They will know that, no matter what, you have their best interest at heart and they can depend on you.
What this means for You: If someone respects you, they will make the tough decision to become your beacon through even the darkest of storms.
They will let you know when you are headed down the wrong path, even if you don’t want to hear it, and stand by your side should you choose to travel it anyway. A person who respects you is someone you can always count on.
7. Respect Teaches You Control and Patience
If you have respect for others, you will understand the importance of letting them find their own way… on their own time. You won’t rush them or force them into a situation that would make them uncomfortable.
What this means for Others: Imagine your best friend suddenly starts hanging out with a different crowd… one you don’t care to be a part of and have little in common with. If you respect the relationship you two have, you’ll give her time to see what you do.
Perhaps the crowd isn’t a good influence, but you respect her enough to trust she will come around in time. Or maybe you’ll start to see some of what she does in them and not allow your jealousy to stop you from making new friends of your own.
After all, diversity makes the world a much more interesting place.
What this means for You: Perhaps you’re a teenager who is testing your parents at every corner. Everything they say, you have a rebuttal for. Everything they want you to do, you find some reason why you can’t.
As long as it’s not harmful to you, having parents that respect you will give you the chance to grow from every experience and learn from your mistakes.
8. Respect Promotes Creative and Independent Thinking
If you show respect for others, you will encourage them to be who they are. You will be viewed as a person that doesn’t believe that there are any bad, insignificant or dumb ideas. This will make others feel at ease when they want to share their thoughts with you.
What this means for Others: If you respect others, you will foster inspiration and creativity. This is especially true in the workplace. Many of the greatest leaders in our world have built their success on the ideas of others.
The most intelligent people on our planet were pioneers in their fields, coming up with the perfect and most unexpected theories. The best teachers inspire their children to reach their full potential on a daily basis.
What this means for You: If someone respects your ideas, they will inspire you to share them. They will encourage you to think freely and flex your independence. You will feel as if you have real value to bring to the table and that you are capable of making a real difference and contributing to something bigger.
9. Respect Means Less Emotional and Physical Abuse
If you respect someone, you will never intentionally bring them harm. You will not inflict narcissistic behaviors on them that cause them to feel like less of a person or unworthy of love and respect.
You will never resort to physical violence to make a point. Respect means treating other people like the delicate flowers they are, recognizing that their psyches and bodies are fragile and worthy of protection.
What this means for Others: People will feel safe around you. They know that you value them inside and out and want to respect all that makes them who they are. They are confident that you won’t try and change them, while embracing their individuality.
What this means for You: If someone respects you, you will also feel safe. You will feel protected and worthy and as if you have an advocate in your life… someone to look out for you at all times. A person who respects you means having someone in your corner.
10. Respect Shows Gratitude for Others
When you respect someone, you will spend much of your time showing them gratitude. You have no problems letting them know how much better your life is with them in it. Small gestures are the norm, as our public displays of thanks.
What this means for Others: If you show respect for others, you are letting them know that you wouldn’t be where you are without them. If you’re an employer, you will acknowledge that you are only as good as the team that surrounds you.
If you are married, you will let your partner know how lucky you are to have them by your side. If you are on a sports team, you’ll know that no victory would be possible without teamwork.
What this means for You: When someone respects you enough to show how grateful they are for knowing you, you will feel as if you’ve made an impact on their life. This may make you feel euphoric and wonder if there are other people out there who feel the same way about you.
On the same note, you may be inspired to let others know how you feel about them too. After all, gratitude is contagious!
11. Respect Is Key in a Loving Relationship
When it comes to romance, there are many rules that must be followed. Sadly, following your heart isn’t always enough. Sure, it’s a good starting point and instincts should always be followed… but common sense should always serve as your compass.
A relationship built upon love needs to center on respect. Without mutual respect, love cannot go the distance. In fact, it can turn toxic.
What this means for Others: When you show respect in a relationship, you are putting that person’s needs and feelings equal to – if not above – your own. You make them feel as if you’d move Heaven and earth to make them happy and see that they are cared for. There is no right or wrong, only mutual respect and understanding.
What this means for You: When you are in a relationship with someone who respects you, you have found the yin to your yang. The one who completes your soul, because you are no longer thinking for yourselves… but as one. A person who respects you loves you for all of your imperfections and sees your internal beauty above all else. They respect the person you are, which demands respect in return. There is no doubt you are better together.
Final Thoughts on Why Respect is Important
Respect typically has to be earned. It is never blindly given. If you have earned someone’s respect, it means that you possess qualities they value. There is something you have that they are drawn to.
Conversely, there are those people who want to see the best in everyone. This means that they will give others the benefit of the doubt and choose to respect them initially… even without having the full picture of who they are. And if they are lucky, they won’t be let down.
Whichever camp you fit into, one thing rings true about respect… it is vital in our world. Respect plays a crucial role in the way we treat others and the way we want to be treated. Nobody wants to hear that they aren’t good enough or that their morals are inferior. No person wants to feel as if his or her opinion doesn’t matter.
Respect for others could help put an end to senseless violence, wars and protests. If people just stopped to listen to both sides of the story, and respect everyone’s right to choose their own path, you’ll find there is always common ground. You just need to search long enough.
Need a roadmap to help you get there? Then be sure to check out our article on 13 ways to show respect, if you haven’t done so already.
And don’t forget, it’s never too early to teach respect to your kids. This acronym is a great reminder:
R is for remind kids what respects means
E is establishing boundaries
S is for say and do
P is for praying with kids
E is for empower kids with verses
C is for challenging the status quo
T is for talking
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.