Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Respect Still Matters

I was recently at a three-day convention were research psychologists presented their latest studies and findings. One topic caught my particular attention, and I guess it has always been close to my heart. This research looked at how people are affected by being ignored, left out, or disrespected. These experiences impact us at the level of our self esteem, in addition to creating anxiety and depression, from light to severe.  Even small slights can do a great deal of damage.

We would all benefit from becoming better aware of the occasions that make people feel left out and ignored.  

For instance, it is easy to feel uncomfortable and excluded when one is invited to a special event and the host or hostess makes no effort to include everyone in the party. That is – or at least should be - their most important job.

Large weddings can become very awkward, and anything but a celebration, for guests who are not part of the family or the close circle of friends. Often the tables are too large and the band plays to loud to make audible conversation. Rarely does anyone introduce stranger to stranger sufficiently to give them some common ground to ease into a chat.

It is disrespectful to the “outer tier” guests to invite them (at a very high price these days) to simply come and watch the show. Forget the food. It is the perfect setting for feeling excluded, uncomfortable and unimportant. Wedding planers and parents of the bride and groom, pay attention. Make it someone's job to include everyone receiving an invitation to feel a part of it all.

Another disrespectful behavior (one I am sure we have all fallen victim to) is when the person talking to you at some event seems to be looking in every direction but yours.  This gives off the very clear impression that he is looking for someone more important than you.

Well, the list could go on and on, and I am sure that some of you could write a book.

The important point I want to make is that respect still counts as much as ever, even though it's not that frequently on display. But, as ample research shows, people are just as sensitive to being excluded or slighted as ever, and if you behave disrespectfully to others you will not be liked. Your relationships will suffer, and it will be more difficult to get ahead in the world and get people on your side. Everyone responds to courtesy.

I think a big mistake is often made by working parents and the well-to-do. They, understandably, aim to give their children everything they desire, and don't want to spoil the precious little time they have together with discipline and lectures. The result of this kind of parenting, however, can be an overly-privileged and entitled sense of self-importance, and a lack of respect for others. Teachers and other adults may instinctively dislike these children, and odds are good that their peers will feel the same way.

This is not what I want for my children. I love them, but I also want other people to like them, too. These are some of our family rules:

     Say hello to everyone you encounter

     Always use “please,” “thank you,” and “may I?” (very, very important)

     When speaking to adults or friends, look at them while they are talking to you and don't interrupt.

     When calling a friend, first identify yourself to the parent, then ask to speak to the friend.

     Be nice to everyone in your class or group, even if others are not.

     Never eat candy or cookies in front of anyone, unless you have enough to share.

     Don't say mean things to anyone, or about anyone.

     Don't interrupt adult conversation, unless it is very important.

And of course, for all of us in general, the "Golden Rule" still is the best recipe for a wonderful life!


  1. The breakdown of the Golden Rule (The Law of Reciprocity) is surely one of this generations greatest failings.

    There is so much less shame now than every under the guise of 'being authentic'. The kid who wears pants half way down as 'expressing myself' and concludes that means to ignore any shame.

  2. Excellent (forgotten) reminder. I was recently noticing that people seem far more "detached" possibly anti-social than when I was growing up (children and adults alike).Common introductions,courtesies,simple social interactions are non-existent in some settings.Try saying"good morning",or "hello" to the person on-line at the coffee shop,better yet try it for a week,see the results.Great post,good reminders-and not just for children.