The Cambridge dictionary defines the word respect as “admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities”.
There is a difference between respect given to people due to the position they occupy vs respect given to individuals because of their personal conduct. Although, people often conflate the two, there is a big difference.
For example, we show respect to the head of state, authority figures such as law enforcement officers, our elders, the clergy etc. However, we give these people our respect because of the position they hold and not necessarily because of who they are. The military provides a clear example of this, where the lower ranks must obey a higher rank.
Sometimes people in these positions forget that it is their office/role that affords them the esteem that they receive. Sometimes they abuse their position of authority. So, once they no longer occupy that office or role, there is no guarantee they will receive the same level of respect. Never confuse position with person or you may be in for a rude awakening when you no longer hold that position.
Conversely, we may regard someone highly because of the way that person chooses to live his/her life, regardless of their position. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. We should treat every human being with respect and dignity. We should treat them the way we would like to be treated. Period. However, admiration does not come automatically. You earn it, you can’t demand it but you can command it. So, if you do not behave respectably, you cannot expect that people will respect you.
Here are some common traits that I have observed in people whom I highly respect. They all:
- treat everyone the way they would like to be treated;
- keep their word. They do what they say they will do;
- act with integrity. They behave the same way in private as they do in public;
- admit when they have made a mistake and apologize promptly;
- practise what they preach;
- are willing to take an unpopular position even if they stand alone;
- stick to their values and don’t keep changing to please others;
- genuinely care about others and are empathetic;
- say what they mean;
- speak truthfully and act fairly;
- mind their own business.
If you make a habit of doing these things, people will respect you, independent of any position you may occupy. They may not always like you, which is perfectly ok. You can respect someone whom you don’t like. The two are mutually exclusive.