The other day I was thinking about the phrase “respect is earned”, and how many people use this as justification for treating other people like shit.

Many people take the approach of, “if I don’t respect you, or if you haven’t “earned” my respect, you don’t deserve to be treated the same as people who I do respect.”

We see this all the time in small ways, whether it’s a waiter being talked down to, a boss yelling at an employee, or a general lack of concern for the tone with which we talk to each other.

Thinking about this dynamic made me realize that, although you might not respect someone, you can still treat them with respect.

Even if I don’t respect you, that doesn’t mean that I have to let you know about it. I can still treat you respectfully, honestly, and with love and compassion.

If I don’t respect you, I can still be nice to you and make it SEEM as if I do respect you.

Instead, many of us use this phrase “respect is earned” to justify the fact that we have treated someone disrespectfully.

We also generally do this with people that we don’t like in subtle ways. When we meet new people or we’re in a group and we see someone we’re not too fond of, we ignore that person. Or we’re short with them. Or maybe we throw them dirty looks to let them know that we don’t like them.

Sometimes this can even be justified because perhaps they have wronged you at an earlier point in life. We then use this justification to tell ourselves that it’s OK and bypass the guilt of being an asshole.

Don’t take the bait of justification, treat the person with respect instead.

We all come into contact with frustrating people. Don’t use your frustration as a justification to treat people poorly.

Treat people with respect. Treat people respectfully. It’s very simple, but often hard to do.

It requires awareness of tone. Awareness of our own feelings, and our reactions to unpleasant situations.

But we can all make more of a conscious effort to treat each other with respect, especially to those who we have no respect for at all 🙂

Thoughts? Similar experiences? Let me know in the comments below!

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Also published on Medium.

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