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I’ve been in a situation over the last few months, where respect has become a fundamental issue. Its been a process of setting up a new forum, and getting people who previously had no contact with each other to build up to trusting each other and working harmoniously if not productively with each other. The issue of respect, and having each others respect, and the different types of respect that can exist have become huge issues, the sub-text to the drama playing out. Its one of those great themes that historians when they get around to analyzing this will draw out and say that it explains almost everything that happened before and after.

My view of respect is that its always something earned. Different things give different people a higher or lower value to start off with, but after that where it ends up is up to them. Some jobs like Teachers earn you higher starting respect then the normal Joes you run into. I’ve found though that people in positions of responsibility feel that they have an automatic right to high respect, but that has never been my perspective of it. You are entitled to it for the first 15 minutes, you need to earn it after that.

I give everyone what I think is a pretty high starting value. Everyone is entitled by virtue of their basic humanity, to a very high level of respect and concern. At the very least they are a human being, and I ought to make that state worthy of the highest respect that I can give it. This really applies in the abstract though, it doesn’t actually attach to people instantly. When I first meet them for the first 20 seconds or so this is the standard of concern that they get.

The problem is that first impressions can make a big difference to the standard of respect that you attach. A lot of people, from what I heard of them, my own limited interaction with them and they’re attitudes deprived them of a substantial amount of the protection that they were entitled to very quickly. It caused me to make a mistaken judgment call, that a particular individual was not worthy of my respect. I’m thankful though that my later talks with him, both across the forums and on MSN, that we seem to have reached an uneasy truce and a modicum of mutual respect. Its not high, but its a base from which we can build I hope.

Respect also comes in different forms when you think about it. With people in positions of authority you give them distant respect, you are cold, formal and polite. Its about respecting their position as opposed to them precisely. With family, its about respect that is independent of form, and the closer you get to them, the more balance you need between friendly and formal. Friends is the last category. You need to be very respectful of your friends I find, but you can’t weigh it up in those terms. You have to be polite to them, friendly (well duh) as well as keeping up the tone and style of the friendship. Respect between friends is fundamental but a hidden subtext, and best not mentioned it seems.

The interesting think I have noticed though, is that the more you know a person, the closer you get to them, the more intertwined your relationship with them is, the more respect that you need for them. If you need to deal with them every day, you need the highest respect and politeness towards them to keep the relationship functioning. The rationale I think is that at this state of a relationship you know each other so well, that you can do so much damage and hurt to each other, you have to have great respect for each other to not do that when they give you an opportunity. This mix is called Trust.


One Comment

    • Anonymous
    • Posted May 15, 2005 at 3:18 am
    • Permalink

    I agree – Respect!

    – James

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