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If you really want to know how to show respect to others, start with self-respect.

If you look up the word “respect” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you will get several definitions, the first two of which are actionable for our purposes here today:

1: “a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.”

2: “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way”

Perhaps the best way to think of the word as it relates to you showing respect to others is an amalgamation of the two that goes something like this: “The act or practice of treating someone in an important and appropriate way that makes them feel valuable and good.”

Mutual respect: elevating self-worth

See the difference there? When respect is actively shown, is given willfully, it reflects not only on the person being respectful, but it can elevate the sense of self-worth of the person being respected.

In other words, we don’t simply show respect to others because it is the right thing to do, but because it is a good thing to do. And it is good for all parties – you’ll find that not only will you feel better about your own personal identity as you become a more respectful person, but also that you will gain more appreciation in the eyes of others and feel respected yourself.

Why Showing Respect to Others Is So Important

Most everybody has an innate respect for the value of human life. To remain secure in a peaceful society, it is most often advantageous to adopt a certain level of respect to get along in daily life. That means respecting the laws that govern things like traffic flow and vehicle speeds, the rules of a healthy work environment or school, the personal space each of us reserves for our bodies, and within our interpersonal relationships at home.

In other words, showing respect to others is hardly a lost art, or something foreign to most of us. But offering enough proper respect is somewhere far too many of us fall far too short. In the eyes of too many people, simply not being disrespectful is good enough – doing anything more, such as using impeccable manners or offering extra patience or assistance might seem unnecessary. 

In fact, it should be the new baseline you set for yourself. When you begin to treat other people with proper respect, you will begin to feel yourself commanding more respect from others. And when you begin to command more respect from others, you will in turn be happier to continue extending respect to yourself. It’s a beautiful cycle that can continue indefinitely, and it can improve all the lives you touch, starting with yours.

If You Want Earned Respect, Be Someone Who Shows Respect

Think back on some of the best respected people from the past couple of centuries. Let’s take, for a few examples, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Princess Diana, and Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers, e.g.). What do these half dozen seemingly disparate people have very much in common?

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Well, yes, pretty obvious given the context here, but the answer is they were respectful people. You see that? We’re leading with respectful, not respected – the latter comes in spades, but true respect from others is always predicated on the genuine showing of respect first. In other words, mutual respect.

Remember here a fine quote from Malcom S. Forbes, who said: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” And then keep this fixed in your mind: often showing respect and showing kindness are really one and the same. And don’t we all deserve kindness? Reading through a few kindness quotes can help answer that for you, but to save you time, the answer is yes.

How to Show Respect All Throughout Your Life

You will not simply wake up and find yourself to be a respectful person one morning. You can, however, wake up and decide to be a respectful person. Being, however, is better put as “doing.” It will take some active, conscious work for you to be your most respectful self, and in turn for you to soon find yourself a better respected person soon enough as well. 

So what are a few of the things you can do that will lead to you being a person who’s feeling respected? Here are some good things to take to heart.

Be an Active Listener 

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One of the best ways to show someone respect is to truly listen to them; to hear not only what they are saying but also to comprehend the why of it. Active listening means not waiting to talk, not one-upping an anecdote, not judging, it means truly hearing and then responding mindfully once you are prompted to do so. And beyond being respectful, you may learn some things, too, thanks to the different perspectives you’ll see.

Show Gratitude

When someone is kind, thoughtful, and respectful to you, don’t take it for granted. And in fact, go beyond not taking it for granted yourself, but actively express appreciation to the person. And this extends to interactions you share with strangers, co-workers, friends, and family – all relationships can grow stronger, after all.

Practice Active Respect 

People deserve a baseline of respect or better; are you offering that? The baseline means using proper manners, paying attention to body language, being patient and waiting your turn, respecting the opinions of others, and so forth. When in doubt, consider how you would admonish a child to act and remember the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you’d want done to yourself.

Study Good Examples of Respect

It’s really impossible to overstate the importance of showing respect and feeling respected, but it can nonetheless be unclear how best to garner and show respect at some times. So think about respectful behavior in the academic sense by reading respect quotes that shine a warm light on human nature.

Disagree Respectfully 

You can have a diametrically opposed opinion to a person and still show them 100% respect, and that without either of you having to back down from your stances on the issues at hand. After all, we shouldn’t need a universal declaration from the United Nations General Assembly for people to respect each other. Examples of calm, respectful disagreement can be seen in mature political discourse, between a loving couple, in a parent-child relationship, among friends, and so on. And so too can horribly disrespectful disagreements be seen among these and other groups – both examples have plenty to teach us.

Apologize and Admit Fault 

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If you were wrong about something, own it. As soon as possible. Whether you learn you had the facts wrong, whether you made a call at work that didn’t pan out, whether you spoke out while angry and now regret your outburst, what matters is not so much what happened (what you did and said, that is), but what you do about it now. And remember, apologizing and admitting you were wrong is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and maturity. And it will not lose you respect, it will indeed earn you more respect from others.

Respect People’s Time 

One of the most important things in anyone’s life is time. We have so little of it, really, and we can’t ever get it back, so being respectful of someone’s time, not monopolizing it too often or for too long, is a must for being respectful. And also show yourself self-respect by not letting others take too much of your time. You have the right to your own time and interests; don’t take too much of anyone’s time and don’t give too much of your own away.

Be a Reliable Person

Doing what you said you would do, being where you said you would be, maintaining trust and confidence: all of these are displays of respect. Being a reliable, responsible person means you respect the trust and time of others, which will in turn lead them to better respect you.

Some People Simply Cannot Act in a Respectful Manner

Cannot, will not, do not – it doesn’t really matter which phrasing you use if the effect is always the same with the human being in question: some people simply show disrespectful behavior most or all of the time. This may be because of a poor upbringing never dealt with in adulthood. 

It may be because the person holds grudges and has anger issues. It may be because they have narcissistic tendencies (and if you are wondering what is a narcissist, know it’s a diagnosable disorder, not just a personality trait), or due to other causes. Frankly, that’s their problem, not yours, and there may be nothing to do but cut the person out of your life. 

At least erect clearly understood barriers between yourself and the person in question, with those barriers understood by you yourself as well as by other people in the same orbit – that way, even if the person who does not offer respect does not accept the boundaries, you will have support from other people.

The fact is, while ultimately easier to cut the disrespectful person out of your life, if they are a family member, a colleague, a friend of a friend, and so on, you may not be able to totally avoid this person. But you deserve respect in the workplace, in social situations, and in all situations writ large. 

The best approach is to, in a respectful manner, explain how their words and behavior make you feel, express how you wish to be treated, and then clearly express that you will not tolerate less. That way, no one will judge you when you are curt and cold with the person in the future. Or rather they will judge you, and in a positive light, respecting your own self respect. 

Reframing Your Life to Give and Live with More Respect

Every single interaction you have with another person offers you a chance to be respectful, even if the other person does not act in the same way. Some interactions you have with others will compel you to distance yourself from the person if they don’t offer you the respect you deserve. (And remember, we deserve respect, we never demand it – doing or even thinking that is the wrong approach.)

But in order to truly live a life in which you show proper respect, you need to think in the biggest picture you can. You need to show respect to animals, to nature, to places and property, and even to your own things. You need to wake up in the morning and make your bed and tidy your room because that is how you start the day showing respect to your home and to yourself. You need to toss that garbage in the trash can and even pick up the litter nearby and do the same, because that’s how you respect the street corner. You need to stay on the trail and not plunge through the brush because that’s how you respect nature.

Living your life in a more respectful manner across the board will, quite possibly, feel like a challenge at first, as you unlearn certain behaviors and try to rewire some of your thinking. But ultimately you will not feel more effort, but less weight in your life as being respectful becomes your new normal. 

As you show more care, patience, kindness, and understanding for all the people, places, and things in your life, you will come to appreciate things more as well. And the more you appreciate what you already have as well as the new things that come into your life, the happier you will be.