How is Respect Determined?

23 November 2010

In the world, people keep telling each other about being respectful. But how is respect measured or determined?

Many people nowadays are said to have lack of respect. The word respect is kind of overused as well, even the slightest things can be "disrespectful" to some people. We're just going to look at respect in a more philosophical/logical way. In what cases does respect really apply?

Definition of Respect
Based on Wikipedia,
Respect denotes both a positive feeling of esteem for a person or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem.

According to a journal article research on PubMed Central,
What Does ‘Respect’ Mean? Exploring the Moral Obligation of Health Professionals to Respect Patients
Respect is the recognition of the unconditional value of patients as persons.

Although the second one is for doctors and patients, but I'll combine it in a way that it makes sense. The definitions here suggest that respect is a PERSONAL feeling for ONE person/entity that has no condition. Why personal? Because not everyone has the same positive feeling/recognition towards something. In other words, what actions do you consider it rude? Different people don't mind about rudeness at all. And to say that it is UNCONDITIONAL is true, you don't need a reason to respect someone...since everyone says, "You're supposed to respect everyone!"

Rudeness (also called impudence or effrontery) is a display of disrespectfulness by not complying with the social "laws" or etiquette of a group or culture. These laws have been established as the essential boundaries of normally accepted behavior. To be unable or unwilling to align one's behavior with these laws known to the general population of what is socially acceptable is to be rude.

Srsly. WTF?

I don't know about you, but it's dumb if we have to spend our time learning all these social "laws" of different groups and cultures all over the world just to be NOT RUDE. Not only different GROUPS...but different INDIVIDUALS may have their own perception of "ACCEPTED BEHAVIOUR" as well. Why not just wipe away all that and look at mine? There are only 4 situations of disrespectfulness which you'll see later on.

To Whom Does Respect Apply To?
Respect comes from humans. To whom does it apply to? Humans. But let us not forget the fact that for different human beings, they have a different perception of respect.

What may seem respectful to you, might not be respectful to them or vice versa. So, how do you know when a person is respecting another or not? These are the few points I would like to point out that some actions should NOT be deemed "disrespectful."

OBJECT OF RESPECT refers to the person/entity to be respected.

Non-Disrespectful Acts
Doing acts in a situation where the object of respect is not affected of his/her original actions.
For example, in a class of 10 students, if the object of respect is a teacher and only one student does not pay attention by silently fiddling with his handphone, it should not be considered disrespectful.

The main reason being that the teacher is able to teach without any disturbances, and the teacher is able to move, think, and say freely without any restrictions from the so-called "disrespectful" student.

According to Stony Brook University, disruptive behaviour ACTIVELY INHIBITS (yes, actively inhibits!) students' ABILITY TO LEARN, instructors' ABILITY TO TEACH, or the regular operation of the campus. I just wanted to show what is considered disruptive, it ACTIVELY INHIBITS the ability of a person to do something.

If in any case where the other 9 students focus their attention to the one student who's playing with his handphone, the teaching process may still go on. However, the main response from most people would be this,

"Stop that. Other people want to study, don't be selfish."

Sitting quietly and playing with the handphone does not take away the teacher's ability to teach/talk nor the other students' ability to learn/listen. It is not possible for students to pay 100% attention at 100% of the time, it is human nature and the people who really want to study would not bother about minor distractions at all. Consider the fact that many people do miss out important details in a class even when there are no distractions becuase it is impossible for a student to maintain complete focus throughout the class. It comes down to the person and his/her self-discipline. (Not to mention, a good multitasker can pay attention to two or more things at once, really!)

If a person is not deprived of his/her original rights and actions, it should not be disrespectful at all.

2. Disagreement of a certain topic or difference in point of views.
Nothing is the truth, everything is permitted. There are endless possibilities in the world and some researches are not even evident enough to prove a fact. Despite the lack of evidence and other possible factors, some people make it as if it is true immediately.

If another person disagrees with what you have to say, it is not disrespectful. He/she is not your dog, he/she doesn't need to listen to you. Being ignorant is not disrespectful. Unless, the person puts the topic aside and does personal attacks on you. This might be disrespectful because the original topic/action is ignored/interrupted and it is a waste of time as you hear irrelevant information that does not benefit anyone (not because of the attacks were personal).

And that's why you get BANNED!

3. Difference in tone of speech or writing.
Most people would say the tone in speech or writing pretty much defines whether a person is showing respect or not. However, I disagree with this point.

Firstly, you cannot determine the tone in writing properly because it is not a face-to-face communication.

Secondly, a person's view on another's tone of speech may differ from one person to another.

A person may seem as if he's shouting his words out, but to him, he's just speaking normally. Is this person disrespectful? Annoying, maybe. Again, it comes down to your open-mindedness to accept that people may not be as skilled as using different tones in their speech like you can. Judging whether a person shows respect through their speech is judgemental and may lead to you yourself being disrespectful instead.

This is Graham's Hiearchy of Disagreement, which is quite true. Response to Tone, Ad Hominem and Name-Calling are the disrespectful reactions which are quite common.

4. Difference in religion or belief.
Your own race or religion is not the only one that exists in the world. Also, just because the others may have the same religion or race as you, it does not mean that the person has to believe in all superstitions or traditions like you do.

To some people, wearing a hat indoors is disrespectful and to some others it is not. We must accept the other person that he doesn't apply your tradition. Who cares if you follow a tradition or not? Don't expect everyone to follow you; again, they're not your dogs.

Another example would be the American A-Okay sign. In some other regions, that sign may be a vulgar expression (invitation to hump the hole!) or something. Look, if you interpret it as something bad or good, that's just you. In this situation, this is not being disrespectful. This is called a miscommunication.

Situations of Disrespect
- Taking away a person's right to do something.
- Interrupting a person's intended/original actions.
- Taking away a person's belongings (time is included).
- Threatening a person's life/security.

Situations of respect is just the opposite of this...almost all the points are related to each other anyway.

I DONT SEE SHIT ABOUT ESTEEM OR PRIDE! Yeah, because as how you cannot measure respect, you cannot measure a person's feeling for the esteem of another person/entity as well.

How does a person's self-esteem or pride gets challenged? According to Wikipedia again, a person's self-esteem is a term used in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth.

Different people think differently. Just in what situation do you think your self-esteem is challenged? When people call you dumb and incompetent for no reason? This is psychological. If you have great self-esteem, I bet you know what they have said does not affect your self-esteem at all. Now that's what self-esteem is all about, dude. Therefore, challenged pride is not a situation of disrespect. Wasted time and interrupted actions are better points.

Random picture. Respect for nurses, anyone? :D

The conclusion is simple. Remember the second definition for doctors and patients? The recognition of patients as persons. As long as you do not deprive someone from their rights or actions as a human being, an average person, then it is not disrespectful. This is how respect should be determined, and not from "whatever seems nice" to you.