Oxford Languages defines the noun form of respect as “Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.” Read that one more time and think about all your interactions over the day - include in that review what you thought about individuals when you read the news, saw apolitical ad or sign, or even saw someone along the road who was hungry. In light of the definition above, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being you had no regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of those people and 10 being you took full account of these for every individual you met, read about, or saw. How did you do?

One of the reasons I’m writing this is because I’m seeing a larger percentage of people react in ways that seem uncharacteristic to howI’ve either known or perceived them to be. The triggers seem to be coming from all angles: politics, social justice, health, economy, and religion to name a few. In addition, the reaction individuals have seemed to be more visceral, personal, and explosive than I believe I have ever seen. There is evidence to suggest that social isolation affects behavior; this work looks at depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another study shows increases in aggressive behavior in rats. As you look at news, social media, political ads, or protests, does it evoke a negative response in you? Do you get angry at or find yourself judging people? This writing is not about the issues, politicians, or right or wrong beliefs, it’s about your reaction to people and to make sure it aligns with your core beliefs.

Why is this important? I’ve heard from clients and friends that their response can be so distracting it hinders their work or the balance they strive to achieve in life. From a health perspective, there is increased anxiety, anger, and frustration, leading to raised blood pressure.I’d like to provide three ways to evaluate your reaction and challenge how you respond:

  1. What is it about a particular individual or group that causes you to react in a way described above? Be specific - “They’re an idiot” or “What they stand for is stupid” won’t get you where you need to be.
  2. Once you have a statement about a person or group, do you find that you generalize?  Do you put anyone that has that sign in their yard, hat on their head, or believes differently than you into a ‘group’ that you can’t trust, don’t like, or even view as evil – and you may not know or have even met them?
  3. Given the opportunity to meet, work with, or socialize with this individual (could also be group), have you pre-judged them?

Having answered the three questions above, review the definition of respect. Has your ‘score’ from the beginning changed? I believe most would agree that respect is a global core value of all cultures. There maybe different degrees to which it applies, as in how one is treated within a culture versus to those outside, but still integral to culture. If you’ve made it this far and found that you still show respect for others, particularly those who think, act, or look differently than you – that’s great! For those that have an opportunity to improve their reaction, now is the time for a plan, particularly if your productivity or well-being is impacted. Obviously, you can identify the sources of your triggers and try to avoid them, but that doesn’t really solve the problem. You can show respect by trying to learn more about a particular individual or group, provided you can do in a civil manner. Another approach is to dig within yourself, understand the root cause of your reaction, and work to put steps in place that prevent you from judging or getting angry. This is where help from friends, co-workers, coaches, and therapists can be beneficial.

Behavior that is aligned to your core values provides a peace or serenity that allows you to operate most effectively.Making an effort to respect a person you may not agree with enables a dialog and discussion that may not have happened in the past. This fosters trust and respect by others toward you, hopefully creating an environment where people can respectfully disagree.