How important is it to be respected?

Respect is a little word with a massive meaning, and one that can be hugely influential when it comes how people feel about themselves, act towards other people, and generally live their lives. Different situations may warrant different types of respect, as well as different people receiving various levels of it, and it may be seen as a subjective term and act, but just how important is it to be respected? This action could be by family members, friends, work colleagues and bosses, or even by a person themselves. I think that having respect for our own feelings, for example, is an important part of building good mental health.

What is respect?

I think everyone has their own opinion of what respect is, but a dictionary definition says it is the admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities. Personally, I think this definition is not broad enough; surely such admiration can be shown to fellow humans as a starting place before they even get to know them? In an ideal world, I think this would definitely be the case, but perhaps there lies the reason why some people may not feel they receive the respect they deserve.

The value of respect

To me, respect is about being valued. I think a common mark of respect is listening to people and valuing what they have to say, even if you don’t necessarily agree with what you hear. It could be seen as a small thing, but may be viewed by another person as being a huge part of whether they feel a valued member of society.
Within a workplace, for example, there is usually a hierarchy – people are at the top and have the higher paid jobs along with the responsibility and authority to exercise over the people at a lower level. The people at the lower levels usually have more hands on experience in the day to day running of whatever business they are in, but don’t always have the correct level of authority to change anything they may feel needs to be. If a company wants to show how they respect every one of their employees, a way of doing this could be to allow everyone to put forward ideas they have on how they could improve the business or even just their own role. Listening to views in this way shows respect. This is a simple, yet potentially very effective way of allowing people who may not feel part of a wider company to feel valued and respected enough to be listened to on a greater scale.

What is the consequence of not feeling respected?

Above is just one example of how a little bit of respect can go a long way, but by using the same example, what if such a workplace treated people in a different way? The employees working with customers every day feeling disengaged with higher management, or treated with disrespect when it comes to pay rises or employee perks, would probably soon feel the impact on their overall outlook within their role. By not feeling respected, such workers may start to care less about their timekeeping and going the extra mile for their company. They may not give one hundred percent when dealing with customers or colleagues because they may not feel motivated to do so. It is not just within their working life that this may become a problem for such workers. People who work, spending perhaps thirty-plus hours a week in the same place working alongside the same people, have the potential to become accustomed to their role and may even feel defined by it. If there are problems at work, they most likely affect a person’s home life at some level as well, which is something that can affect their own mental health if they are not taking any rest bite from how they are feeling. Respect is a little word with potentially huge consequences.

What is the solution?

The example above is just one case of how a feeling of not being respected can have further consequences. Depending on a person’s own circumstances, change could be the option, whether it is changing a job, changing the people they socialise with, or anything else that impacts on gaining the respect a person believes they should be shown. Feeling valued and listened to can be extremely important to one person, but it may not mean as much to others. Therefore, I think respect is a subjective entity that has the potential to be harmful if not enough is given, but it is not always the most desired thing to have. If feelings of disdain are impacting on how a person feels, I think this is when action needs to be taken because if something can be changed, it should be. It is not always easy, but weighing up how you feel and why is an important aspect in making sure you are mentally healthy, and whether anything needs to be done to help achieve that.

Overall, I think respect is something that can’t be universally defined because it will always vary from person to person. In the workplace, some people won’t care about if they are respected or not, they may just focus on the pay. I have used the workplace in my examples because I think that is where a lot of feelings of being respected come from and has the potential to cause bigger problems within a person’s life if they are not. Everyone has different priorities and standards of how they want to be treated in life, but generally I think it is very important to be respected if not just at a human level; being respectful of other people’s feelings and property should be a given in society. Not everyone is going to feel they are given the level of respect they deserve in life, but by starting off with at least some can only be a positive and the right thing to do, and being aware of how it makes you feel is also a step in the right direction to make positive changes.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach