What is Respect?


“Knowledge will give you power, but character gives respect.” Bruce Lee

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.” Confucius

The above statements are some of the most popular quote on the term “respect”.

In the world today, respect is slowly reducing as the day goes by. In the sense that, people are gradually obsessed with their self and unsympathetic to those around them. Consequentially, there’s a disregard for people’s rights and feelings.

“Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am were part of the things we had to learn. I grew up learning 5 magic words or let me say courtesy words and these words are:

  • Please
  • Excuse me
  • Sorry
  • Thank you
  • Pardon me

Sometimes we never understood why we were taught such and other times, forced to do and say such. Now it is truly appreciated.

What is Respect?

According to Merriam Webster (2017); Respect, also called esteem, is a positive feeling or action shown towards someone or something considered important or held in high esteem or regard.

It conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities. And it is also the process of honoring someone by exhibiting care, concern, or consideration for their needs or feelings.

Respect also means to serve, to give back. Serving shows that we care and respect. It is to bestow honour, regards, value on a person, his words and actions.

Learning respect often starts at an early age and continues to develop over time as we socialize. When we disagree with a person, we listen and remain patient with them.

Some show respect by the use of courtesies like “Thank you ” in the West or “Namaste ” in the Indian subcontinent, or simple expressions like a bow, a smile, direct eye contact, or a simple handshake.

Why is Respect so important?

It is important because Respect is the glue that holds your relationships together. It’s a direct way of preserving human dignity and value People are held in high esteem because of their knowledge, character, and integrity.

Sometimes we respect the position they occupy. No one wants to be treated like trash, hence the call to respect one another must be heed.

Respect has its roots and core values from the culture of any society. As we all are distinct and different beings, so also are our etiquettes of respect.

However, those acts may have very different interpretations, depending on the cultural context. Here are a few societies explained.

Asian cultures

Respect is based on the family and demonstrated through language and gestures.

Places like China, it is very rude to call someone by their first name except you are familiar with the person and have known the person for a long period of time.

Asian cultures address each other by their titles when they are at work. Also, individuals often address their friends as juniors and seniors even if they are just a few months younger or older.

Bowing is a sign of respect for elders and ancestors in Asian culture.

Many codes of behavior revolve around young people showing respect to older people. Like in many cultures, you let them speak first, sit down after them and not contradict them.

Sometimes when an older person enters a room, everyone stands. People are often introduced from oldest to youngest. Often, younger people will go out of their way to open doors for their elders and not cross their legs in front of them.

Islamic cultures

Around the world, there are many ways to show respect to people. For example, it is recommended to kiss the hands of parents, grandparents and teachers.

Wives are taught to respect their husbands by been totally submissive to him. The Islamic ethic is based on the Koran and on good character.

African gestures

The African culture of respect is deep and strongly rooted in their norms. Here are a few compilations of general gestures.

  • For the Asians, the elders are always acknowledged. In a case of serving the elders first during mealtimes.
  • Thou shall not point thy fingers. I grow up with my mum hitting my hands when it was raised to show my interest in a certain toy or food. She would say, “don’t point your fingers at someone’s market”. Market here means business. Pointing at something or someone with the index finger is considered rude like very rude. Where words fail us to properly express, we normally move our chin in the right direction and widened our eyes towards the object of our focus.
  • The use of the right hand. This goes well especially during mealtimes or when giving someone something. Even those sinister (left-handed), are trained to use their right hand for almost everything. Better still, receive a Gift with both hands. It’s a non-verbal way to show extreme thankfulness with both hands outstretched.
  • Name Calling: In my country Nigeria, anyone older than you must not be address with their first names or without their full titles. Better yet, you can add the terms “aunty or “uncle” or “mummy” or “daddy” whether or not they are related to you by blood.


In my faith, respect to God is Paramount. Chewing gums while a service is on is a big NO NO; or probably your phone rings out loud during the preaching of the word, is an act of disrespect.

To many respects involves Kowtowing (kneeling and bowing). It is a practice of honour during worship at temples. Some Juju priest believe that you mustn’t come empty handed while coming to a shrine. You must offer sacrifices/gift to their gods.

Sacred materials such as the Koran and Bible are regarded as holy.


Respect is an essential element in business and in life. For a successful business you need to have respect because it is an essential qualification for a successful career and as you progress through various stages of leadership and responsibility it should increase. In the business view, respect must be earned.

Respect in your business relationships builds feelings of trust, safety, and wellbeing. It involves integrity in keeping to business deals, been mindful of other people’s time, courteous in words and actions. Not only should superiors be respected, but subordinate and colleagues.

Let’s look at a case scenario: What to do when somebody isn’t respectful toward you.

Probably you’re walking along an aisle, and some mistakenly bumps into you with a cup of juice! Haa, boom!?!?? Your dress is spilled with stains, and all the confusion sets in.

The person who truly is at fault, starts yanking out hurting words with a rising tone. Insinuating that it’s your fault while it isn’t. You might be wondering how to respond—or if you should respond! How many of us are willing to let go and just walk away?

Well, some might overlook and decide to walk away, while most of us before walking away would have lavishly engaged in a verbal or physical abuse.

Yes, you have every reason to be upset, but how do you confront such situations, yet still preserving a person’s dignity and respect?

 Here are a few steps set below. It should be noted that the steps are for a much general use.

For a stranger

First impression really matters, and you might meet again some place in life. You don’t want it to be awkward. It’s a small world you know.

  • Don’t yell or talk over the top of each other
  •  Try to understand their point of view
  • If it’s something you can easily let it slide, please do let it go. For a more delicate situation, respond with caution and control your temper. You can engage in a bargain
  • Even while the person might still be disrespectful, maintain your composure. In sure we all might be tempted to lash out since it’s a one-off thing. But be disciplined enough to maintain your composure.
  • Lastly, still try to understand the person. Kindly explain to the person your view. If the person doesn’t agree, walk away.

For a close contact

It’s ok to end friendships with people when it’s detrimental, but hey!! let’s get through this together before you cut down that line:

  • Ask yourself: Is this behavior a consistent pattern or a one-off event? Think through whether it was directed to you personally or at the event.
  • Put yourself in his/her shoes: People go through a whole lot of bad stuffs which they just bottle up all day and night. Be sure to consider what the disrespectful person might be going through or the causes of their actions. You just might do worse if it were you.
  • Assess your reaction: Are you justifiable in your response to the scenario? Was the response worth it?
  • Preferably, have the conversation in private instead of causing a scene in public.
  • And if you have an issue with you keeping your temper, always take a break. Come back after you must have cooled down instead of confronting someone in the heat of the moment and say hurting and irreversible words.
  • Use terms like “I feel” and “I think” instead of “You always…” That is to say never get personal.
  •  Keep yourself calm; make great efforts not to get upset and sometimes defensive.
  • Give that person a chance to change their behaviour towards you.
  • Set clear, and enforceable boundaries.
  • Treat others how you want to be treated. Remember that you can show people what respect truly means by respecting yourself.


Respect is very important. There is this good feeling you get when someone gives you respect. And respect should be reciprocated. Give respect to whom respect is due and do not let anyone make you lose the respect you deserve.

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