Reality Check: The Habit of Respect

If you’ve been following recent columns, you’ll know that I’ve been examining Dr. Glasser’s caring habits for building relationships, one at a time. To recap, those habits are: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences.
We’ve now come to “respect.” The choice to respect is effective for any relationship—personal or professional. And respect is a choice, isn’t it?
For example, you may be required to work with someone you don’t appreciate. You can still treat them with respect. You may need to care for someone whom you perceive to be lesser than you. You can still act with respect. You may need to teach someone whom you don’t believe deserves your skill. You can still conduct yourself with respect.
Even when you are faced with someone whom you perceive to be an enemy, it is useful to bring respect.
It can be tempting to save our respect for celebrities, leaders, influencers—people we don’t know personally but who sound awesome, while those closest to us get the short end of the respect stick. After all, we know the foibles and fears of our closest friends and families; whereas we may not know the flaws of somebody we admire from afar.
Thus, we might treat those closest to us casually—even disrespectfully—without thinking. That would be a mistake. It’s likely that the interactions we have with people we see every day contribute significantly to our quality of life. If not for their sake, for our own, it’s worth making that little extra effort to act with respect.
I suspect that many of us don’t often set out to be disrespectful. If we notice that we’ve acted disrespectfully, we can explain—we were only joking, or stressed, time was short; we had too much going on. I’ve used those excuses myself and I’ve believed them to be true at the time.
However, we live a large part of our lives in un-ideal conditions, don’t we? We have to function when we are stressed, time-constrained, pained, lonely, cranky. Even then, we have some control over how we behave.
But what if we genuinely don’t respect the person? As you make your choices, it’s useful to consider what you want. If you want a smooth, functional relationship, then are you more likely to achieve that goal if you act with respect? Or if you are disrespectful?
What does acting with respect look like? Words that come to my mind are “cordial, professional, calm.” While you may not feel respect, and in your opinion, the person may not deserve your respect, you can still control your actions. Of the possibilities available to you, choosing respectful actions are more likely to lead you toward a smoother relationship.
Dr. Glasser and others also make the point that actions lead feelings. That is, if we act in a certain way, our thoughts and feelings tend to follow. Rather than allowing our emotions to rule us, we can more directly choose our actions according to what we’ve set as our goal.
It’s also conceivable that when you treat a person with respect, they may begin to respond in kind. They may even become respect-worthy! It’s possible. Even if they don’t, you will still gain—in self-respect, if nothing else—by acting respectfully with difficult people or during trying circumstances.
What have you observed about acting respectfully in difficult relationships?

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