Be Respectful

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.
    • Offer people food, water, or something else when you see a need that could be met.
  2. Be polite. The concept of etiquette and good manners seems pointless when you're a kid, but when you grow up you realize that these customs 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:
    • Don't talk on your cell phone in a coffee shop, store, restaurant, or any other public place where it could bother other people.
    • Don't cut in line.
    • Don't cut people off in traffic.
    • Say please and thank you!
    • Follow rules intended to make life more pleasant for everyone, like limiting your time using a public computer so someone else can have a turn.
    • Don't eat or drink in places where there's a rule against eating or drinking.
    • Stop talking when the lights go down in a movie theater.
    • Throw away or recycle your trash instead of leaving it for someone else to clean up.
  3. Don't discriminate. Be respectful to everyone - not just people you know or those you perceive as having a higher status than you. Many 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."[1]
    • This means you should be as kind to those who aren't as "cool" as you as you are to the most popular people you know.
    • Be kind to people you encounter throughout the day who aren't always treated with respect. For example, homeless people are often overlooked or treated rudely, but they deserve the same respect and courtesy as anyone else.
  4. Respect differences. 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. Even when you really don't see where someone else is coming from, be courteous and civil. You don't have to love everyone you meet, and you certainly don't have to agree with them, but you can still show them respect.
    • Be respectful of people's cultural differences.
    • Be respectful of people with different religious beliefs.
    • Be respectful of people with different politics from you.
    • Be respectful of people on the team that rivals yours (and fans of the other team).
  5. Respect spaces. Any space that you share with other people should be treated with respect. Your home (if you live with other people), your school, your street, your bus line - these familiar spaces are familiar to other people, too. You wouldn't appreciate it if other people trashed the places where you spend time every day, so be sure to clean up after yourself and do your part to keep them nice for others.
    • Don't leave wrappers and other trash lying around - pick it up and throw it out. If you make a mess, clean it up.
    • Don't graffiti public spaces (unless you're an artist, and you have permission).
  6. Respect the earth and all who live here. Being respectful extends beyond just being nice to other people. Remember to show respect to animals, plants and the earth itself. We're all living here together, and each one of us is deserving of respect. Treat every living creature as an individual worthy of courtesy.
    • Do your part to avoid polluting the environment.
    • Understand how your actions affect the rest of the world. For example, using pesticides on your lawn could contaminate the groundwater and have a negative impact on your environment. Try to make conscientious lifestyle choices.
  7. Respect other people's possessions. It is considered rude and inconsiderate to help yourself freely to anything that does not belong to you. Ask permission before using someone's property. If you don't, you might be accused of stealing.
  8. Respect personal space. Personal space varies in different situations. Strangers (e.g. people on the subway) should be given a space bubble, and it's best not to strike up conversations unless they're showing signs that they're open to talking. Friends and family members usually are more open to touching, but it's still important to make sure they're okay with it.
    • When offering hugs and kisses, let the person see it coming so they can decline it if they don't want it for any reason.
    • Ask before prolonged contact, such as playing with someone's hair or rubbing their back.
    • Treat disability equipment (canes, wheelchairs) and service animals like extensions of a person's body. Don't touch without permission.

Communicating Respectfully

  1. Listen when someone is talking. When you're having a conversation, being a good listener is a basic sign of respect. If you look bored or interrupt the person, you're 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.
    • 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.
    • 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. Take into account 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. Avoid phrases like "Don't worry your little head about it," or "It's a guy thing, you wouldn't understand."
    • Be mindful of circumstances you should avoid talking about. If you don't know someone very well, there are certain questions you probably shouldn't ask. For example, if you just met someone, don't ask how he got the 3-inch scar on his forehead.
  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's political beliefs, but you can still value the person as a human being, and that should come through in the way you argue.
    • Never resort to insulting someone during an argument. Don't let "I don't agree with your view on that" to 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. Don't 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.
    • Politely object to continuing or starting such discussions, even if the person being gossiped about has done a bad deed towards you before. Remember, you reap what you sow, so do not indulge in bad habits for your own good and other people's good. Keep in mind that the good or bad deeds you commit will affect you and others in the long run.
  8. Apologize 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. For example, "I'm sorry I winced when you said you were autistic, and I was acting on a misconception of what autism is. I'm sorry I upset you, and I accept you for who you are." This 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.

Going Deeper

  1. Show deference to those with rightful authority. Some people deserve extra signs of respect because of the position they hold. The school principal, the boss, the church leader, the mayor, the queen of England - these are people you have risen to leadership positions because they have exhibited qualities society deems worthy of respect. Show authority figures respect according to the proper custom, whether it means calling the principal "Sir" or bowing to the queen.
    • Elders are also deserving of extra respect. Respect your parents, grandparents, and other elders in the community for the valuable wisdom they have to share.
    • In some cases it is important to recognize when an authority figure is not deserving of extra respect and deference. If someone has broken your trust and you feel you can no longer respect them, that's a personal choice you have the right to make. In some cases, by standing up to authority you are respecting yourself and other people affected by the authority figure's power.
  2. Don't abuse your own power. If you are in a position of power, respect those who trust you by being courteous and kind to them. Never expect them to defer to you "just because." Be the kind of leader who people want to follow instead of the kind they're afraid not to follow.
  3. Respect yourself. You are an important person, and you deserve to be treated well. Work on treating yourself the way you'd treat a friend. Every time you think a negative thought about yourself or do something self-destructive, ask if you'd talk to a friend that way. You are your own best friend.
    • An "others first" approach is kind, but is only realistic to a certain extent. Put your basic needs (food, sleep, mental health) first. Once your needs are met, you will then be able to help other people effectively.
  4. Practice empathy and compassion. To really understand how to respect other people, put yourself in their shoes and attempt to truly understand where they're coming from. You can be courteous to people without really caring much about them, but true respect stems from a sense of empathy, a deep sense of shared understanding. Try to recognize the bonds that tie us all together and the fact that we're all sharing the same earth. Respecting each other is a way of getting along and making the world livable and more delightful for everyone.


  • A great technique for giving respect is to empathize or relate to the other person. Listening and responding intelligently, seriously, and beneficially shows a great amount of respect. Everyone wants what they say to be heard and taken into consideration.
  • Being respectful tells people you not only care about others, but you care about yourself. The most important part of being respectful is respecting yourself; if you don't, people won't respect you.
  • When talking to someone, look them in the eye in a steady, but friendly way, if possible.
  • There's a thin line between being respectful and allowing others to do with you what they please. Being respectful also means being respectful towards your own self. Do not let anyone walk over you or take advantage of you and assertively tell them that their actions are not of your liking.
  • If a person is being unkind to you for any reason, do not resort to your fists, backstabbing/gossiping, or other low-level retaliating techniques. Instead, keep your head cool and respectfully and assertively state your dislike of their actions. If they do not stop, resort to a third party or an authority if things start getting out of hand. If you suspect that a person might want to start a fight, get out of there. If it's recurrent, ask an authority or trusted someone for help.

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Sources and Citations