We live in a world filled with conflict. Opinions and worldviews, likes and dislikes are as varied as the number of humans on this planet.
Most of us like to think we’re tolerant of people who see the world differently than we do. We know it’s important to show respect to those around us, and we really do try.
But sometimes we find ourselves only tolerant of people who see things our way. That’s human nature, isn’t it? To push back when we hear someone express (what we believe to be) an outrageous opinion?
How do we genuinely show respect for someone who (in our opinion, at least) is so wrong about so many things?
How do we make others feel respected, even if we don’t see eye to eye about anything?
How do we show respect to someone who doesn’t seem to deserve it?
When we choose to accept that every human is imperfect, to look past the things we don’t like or agree with and love anyway, the result is a natural outpouring of respect.
We love anyway. Not in spite of our differences. Not ignoring them either. But we love anyway because in our differences, in stepping toward others, in listening to them and respecting them for who they are without trying to change them, we come closer to creating the more beautiful world.
The change we so desperately long for in this world is possible, but we have to stop waiting for everybody else to show respect for one another, and start leading by example.
Here are a few ways to begin.
5 Ways to Respect Others
#1 – Begin with an open mind.
Be willing to hear opposing opinions—even outrageous ones—and learn about the worldview of people you don’t agree with.
A sure way to shut down a conversation before it ever gets started is to express judgment or condescension. But if you are willing to listen, to genuinely hear the other person, conversations take place. Relationships grow.
If your goal is to genuinely show respect to others — even those with whom you disagree — treat each person you encounter with the love and dignity they deserve. Listen to them—not to change their mind, but to learn more about who they are. This will make them feel respected and open more doors to peace than you can imagine.
#2 – Look for common ground.
Every human being is valuable, regardless of their opinions or worldview. Learn to view everyone you encounter through the lens of love, and then look for ways the two of you can connect on a deeper level.
Perhaps the only thing you have in common is that you both have the same number of children, or a love for art, or you like a certain sport or food. Focus there, and before you know it, you’ll find common ground in other areas, too.
As your relationship grows and deepens, you might find you are ready for a more open discussion about your differences and how you each came to believe and live the way you do. And that’s the goal, isn’t it?
#3 – Listen closely.
With the rise of social media, listening has almost become a lost art. It’s easy to read a post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, type a response in ALL CAPS and then run away from the discussion.
And it’s even harder to listen in person. We hear people speaking, but are we really listening? Or are we just thinking about what we will say next?
Stop thinking about your argument or if you agree or not and instead really focus on what the other person is saying. Pay attention to their emotions and their tone. Try to understand where they’re coming from.
Lean forward, and really listen. It’s that simple.
#4 – Keep your emotions in check.
Have you ever had a discussion with someone where all they do is talk or yell over you?
What did that accomplish, other than provoking anger or irritation?
Passions run high when it comes to differing beliefs and opinions, but remember—every individual has worth, dignity, and a right to an opinion, even if you don’t agree. Don’t take it personally. Instead, stay calm. If the conversation is getting too heated and one or both of you aren’t able to listen well to the other, take a step back. Press pause until you’re ready to engage with love and kindness.
#5 – Seek understanding.
Instead of questioning the validity of the other person’s opinions or beliefs, ask questions and be curious.
Genuinely try to understand their position. Even if you never fully agree, at least you will learn something new and make them feel respected. And relationship is built in understanding each other. Agreement doesn’t make a relationship. But respecting the other, understanding who they are… that builds connection and trust.
Examples of Respect
Respect Example #1
Through our actions: We can show respect in many ways, not only through conversation. When we travel or go into other people’s spaces, we can choose clothing and behaviors that respect that culture. We can read books by people who look differently and believe differently than we do, in order to understand their perspective and experiences. We can try different foods and recipes to learn about new cultures. All of these things help us to grow in understanding and respect for others.
By letting go of a bit of ourselves and taking on a bit of others, we can see first hand what an incredible tool respect can be.
Respect Example #2
By listening: A man named Tarik Mounib recruited a diverse group of individuals and offered them a free trip to Egypt. His hope was that building relationships and connecting with people who live in such a different world everyone involved would learn there is more that holds us together than separates us.
As they listened to each other’s stories and life experiences, participants knocked down walls between themselves and connected deeply with one another.
Respect Example #3
By learning: Our world is huge and diverse, but it can still be easy to stay within our own safe circles. Step outside your comfort zone and learn from those who are different than you. Choose authors of a different race, culture, or religion. Visit a mosque or a temple. Attend a cultural festival. Be curious and ask questions.
We learn about someone else’s beliefs without taking them as our own. We can engage in a conversation for the purpose of knowing someone’s heart, not changing it. We can hold our own faith and theirs in the same space and there is room enough for both.
Respect Example #4
By stepping outside your comfort zone: It’s easy to see differences when we’re in a new place. But the more time we spend in a new space, the more “different” things start to feel normal. The same is true with people. That neighbor across the street might seem so different, but the more time you spend together, the more you realize you’re really not that different after all.Sometimes we’re uncomfortable around people who are different from us because, deep down, we realize we’re really not different at all.
Look for Ways to Respect Others in Your Circle of Influence
Whether it’s the woman behind the checkout counter in the grocery store, a business colleague, or someone you met on the golf course, you can make a difference by showing respect to people, because they’re worth it. Every single individual you meet is worthy of love and respect.
How can you step out of your comfort zone this week, and show others love by respecting them, either in conversation or in action?