When you want to be respectful, try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and behave in a way that shows you care. At its heart, being respectful means showing that you value other people’s perspectives, time, and space.

Showing Basic Respect

1 Show kindness and courtesy. Being respectful starts with a basic consideration of other people’s feelings. Ask yourself how you’d want to be treated in a given situation and make an effort to treat other people that way. Treat everyone you encounter—strangers on the street, coworkers, classmates, and family members—with respect and courtesy.[1]

2 Be polite. The concept of etiquette and good manners include those customs that function as a way to keep society running smoothly. Practicing good manners is a way to be respectful of other people’s space and time. If no one bothered being polite, everyday situations like eating in a restaurant, waiting in line at the post office, or dealing with bad traffic would be completely intolerable. Here are a few ways to be polite:[2]

  • Wait your turn.
  • Avoid disruptive talking in public.
  • Speak politely. Say please and thank you. Avoid name-calling or aggressive speech. Don’t swear in polite company.[3]
  • Follow agreements and rules that keep things safe and pleasant.

3 Be respectful to everyone—not just people you know or those you perceive as having a higher status than you. Some people save their respect for people upon whom they want to make a good impression, and they’re rude to everyone else. But there is truth in the saying, “You can judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.”[4]

  • Be kind to everyone, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or what their relationship is with you.
  • Be kind to people regardless of their social status.

Respect differences in belief and opinion. Be respectful to people who are different from you, even if you don’t understand them very well. The differences among us are what make life interesting, and besides, you probably have more in common with people than you know. Be courteous and civil even when you don’t see where someone else is coming from.

Be respectful of others, no matter their…

  • Cultural differences
  • Different religious beliefs
  • Different political beliefs (aside from violent extremism)

Communicating Respectfully

1 Listen when someone is talking. When you’re having a conversation, being a good
showing that you don’t really care what he or she has to say. Practice listening more intently and waiting until the person is finished talking before you respond.[9]

  • Making eye contact is a good way to show that you respect what someone is saying. Other body language cues can help as well. Face the person to whom you’re talking and try not to fidget while they speak.[10]
  • Process what the person is saying instead of just absently nodding your head.

2 Think before you speak. When it’s your turn to talk, try to formulate a respectful response. Consider what the person was saying and voice your opinion without undermining theirs. Avoid insulting the other person by saying something rude or callous.

  • Try not to be condescending. Don’t over-explain a concept the other person clearly already understands. For example, don’t tell a varsity athlete how to hit a baseball.
  • Don’t be patronizing. Along similar lines, talking down to someone can make them feel disrespected.

3 Be clear when you want something. People are often happy to help you, but they can’t help you if they aren’t sure what you need. Talk about your needs (physical or emotional) so that people aren’t left wondering what is going on with you.

4 Respectfully disagree. You can respect someone’s view even if you wholeheartedly disagree. The key is to disagree with what the person is saying without undermining the actual person’s worthiness. For example, you might strongly disagree with someone, but you can still value the person as a human being, and that should come through in the way you argue.[11]

  • Never resort to insulting someone during an argument. Don’t let “I don’t agree with your view on that” escalate to “You’re an idiot.”
  • If necessary, halt the conversation before things get too out of control and you say something you’ll regret. You’re not going to get anywhere by disrespecting the other person; you’ll just make a new enemy.

5 Practice patience and assume good faith. Communication can be difficult sometimes, and people may misspeak or struggle to find words that fit. Give them time, and when you aren’t quite sure what they mean, assume that they are doing their best to be kind and understanding.

6 Don’t stereotype other people. Don’t come to a conversation with assumptions about someone else’s opinions or background based on their race, gender, religion, nationality, or any other factor. Everyone is an individual with special life experiences and wisdom. Don’t make the disrespectful mistake of thinking you know someone before you’ve taken the time to learn about him or her as a unique person.

7 Skip the gossip. It’s a common form of disrespect that people usually get away with, but gossiping is a bad habit. It puts you in the practice of seeing people as characters who are up for discussion instead of individuals with feelings that can be deeply hurt. Even the strangest, most annoying, or obnoxious people should not be regularly discussed as though they exist to provide entertainment for others.

  • If you have nothing good to say, it’s better not to say it at all

8 Express remorse if you hurt someone. No matter how hard you may try, you’ll probably tread on someone’s toes at some time or another. Your hurtful mistake is less important than how you react to it. If you realize you did something unkind or upsetting, talk to the person about it to apologize.

  • Avoid saying “but” to justify your actions. If you wish to explain why you behaved the way you did, try “and” instead. Explains the action without excusing it.

9 Be respectful to others even if they’re not respectful to you. As difficult as it might be, try to show patience and humility. The other person may learn something from you. If the person is downright rude or mean, try to defend yourself without sinking to his or her level.

This is a digest of an article co-authored by Kirsten Parker, MFA Mindset & Action Coach.

View and purchase the full article, including respect outside the workplace.

This article was co-authored by Kirsten Parker, MFA. Kirsten Parker is a Mindset and Action Coach based in her hometown of Los Angeles, California. She helps high achievers overcome stress and self-doubt. She specializes in increasing one’s confidence and clarity by incorporating tools from positive psychology, mindful habit change, and self-regulation into her coaching. She is a Certified HeartMath Practitioner trained in Stress, Anxiety, and Intelligent Energy Management, along with Emotional Intelligence and the Science of Self-Acceptance. She also holds an MFA from Yale University School of Drama in Stage Management. This article has been viewed 850,323 times.

Pan Vera 10/15/2022