Others Shouldn’t Have to Earn Your Respect

I’ve always cringed at the phrase “You have to earn my respect.”

And it’s such a common saying that I rarely see anyone bat an eye at it.

Even a search of that phrase brings up a bevy of resources for people desperately seeking to earn others’ respect:

In truth, everyone should already have your respect—automatically. It should be a given that other people will receive your respect, even at the first moment you meet. Especially in this era of the internet, where you can often interact with hundreds of people a day without ever having more than just a passing shared moment with them.

Respect is defined, in part, as: “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person”.

A challenge with the notion of earning one’s respect is that the respect giver must deem the other person worthy of respect by displaying some trait that the respect giver admires (generally a trait he or she admires about themselves or aspires to have).

But take two very different people from two very different cultures. It’s possible, and even likely, that due to the cultural differences the “respect giver” will find it challenging to, in essence, see themselves in the other person. Does that make the other person any less deserving of respect?

Don’t worry about others earning your respect. Think about how you can show respect.

This isn’t to say that people can’t lose your respect by acting in ways that are harmful to others. But take the pressure of judgment off of yourself in early interactions. See the other person as someone who has also undergone challenges, hardships, and successes. See the other person as a person.



One thought on “Others Shouldn’t Have to Earn Your Respect

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  1. I have to disagree. There is a difference between ‘being respectful’ and respecting someone.

    When I meet people, I’m always respectful of them, but that doesn’t mean I RESPECT them.

    As you said, the definition of respect is “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person”.
    If I don’t know that person and don’t have a sense of their worth or excellence, how can I show them their due esteem or lack thereof?

    Example, I was debating an older gentleman online who was highly critical of millennials and GenXers. When I challenged him on his points, he simply responded, “Respect your elders.”

    In this sense, he was telling me to respect him and his generation (boomers).
    To that, my response was, “I don’t blindly respect anyone and ‘my elders’ in the context you’re referring to have the highest divorce rate of any generation, their buy now/pay later mentality landed the U.S. in crippling debt, and danced in the mud when it came time to fight in a war, but have no issue sending the younger generations off to die in one. Sorry, that doesn’t sound like a general group of people who deserve blind respect.”

    In short, blind respect is neither healthy nor warranted. Respect needs to be given based on the experiences you have with a person.
    Always be respecful, but don’t actually respect the person unless they deserve it.


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