Respecting Others Means Learning to Listen

To have respect for others, you must first have respect for yourself. You also need to learn active listening. In the following article, we talk about how respect is articulated and its effects.
Respecting Others Means Learning to Listen
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Few ethical, social, and even moral values are as important as learning to respect others. However, we live in the kind of world where there’s a shortage of those who believe that respect must be earned. These people defend it as if it’s an inviolable right and we all come into the world possessing it.

As a matter of fact, respect is the most powerful ingredient for a happy life. Because those who learn to respect themselves and others are capable of shaping a fuller, more empathetic, and meaningful coexistence. Nevertheless, like Albert Camus, the famous French novelist, philosopher and journalist said, we’ve created a type of society where it’s only the kind of respect that’s based on fear that abounds to excess.

In other words, we respect the one who has power because they’re above us and we fear the consequences of defying them. This reality, added to many others, means that we don’t adequately conjugate the verb respect.

We make mistakes, emotional spelling errors that affect our relationships, those that create distances and make it difficult to build an authentic culture of respect. However, facilitating respect and learning to erect this important social and psychological dimension from the ground up, requires us to train ourselves. Above all, we need to learn to listen.

“Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-

Man talking to a girl symbolizing how to respect others

Respecting others means learning to listen

It’s often said that there are two elements to respect. The first is the moment you value and give visibility to the other, and the second is when they reciprocate. We’re going to add a third element that’s no less important. This is respect for yourself. It involves understanding that valuing yourself is essential in order to value others.

Self-esteem is key to your well-being and also facilitates your social relationships. When you feel good about yourself and respect yourself, you interact more successfully with others. However, Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the study of positive psychology, gives an interesting warning in this respect. He claims that too high self-esteem leads to narcissism, and to an exaltation of the self where the temptation to step over the rights of others tends to occur.

Guy Bodenmann, a psychologist and professor at the University of Zurich, adds another element to this idea. In an interesting study conducted in 2018, he and his colleagues pointed out that the cornerstone for respecting others is knowing how to listen. Furthermore, the skill of active listening is usually carried out by a person with healthy self-esteem and an adjusted level of empathy.

Listen to understand because understanding means respecting

Listening to understand, and not to respond, is the perfect formula for communication. Unfortunately, in reality, it happens far less frequently than would be desirable. Nevertheless, the competence of knowing how to respect others always begins with treatment and communication. In fact, it’s the basis of any healthy relationship.

If any of the following happen, it signifies that the other person doesn’t respect you.

  • They don’t listen to you.
  • They show no interest in you.
  • Their attitude is inflexible. For instance, they don’t pay attention to your reasoning and put up a barrier before you even speak.
  • They listen to you but don’t act accordingly and don’t take into account what you’ve said and what your needs are.
Woman and man talking, showing respecting others means learning how to listen.

Respect means accepting the individuality of the other

When you teach your child respect, you usually limit yourself to telling them what they shouldn’t do. For example, they shouldn’t hit, take things from others, shout, push, etc. This can mean that, in your child’s mind, there’s an excess of prohibitions, of “Don’t do this” and “Don’t do that”. The most appropriate thing would be to establish really early on what should be done, what respect consists of, and how it’s applied.

  • Respect means giving visibility to the other and realizing that everyone is different, unique, and exceptional. Indeed, accepting differences is key to well-being.
  • Respect means knowing how to communicate. To do so, a child must learn as soon as possible to listen, observe, and connect patiently and empathetically with whoever is in front of them.

It all seems rather simple and obvious. However, in our adult world, there are still many who seek at all costs to be right and speak without any understanding. These people, in order to respect, first demand to be respected themselves. Or, they only respect themselves and see themselves as superior to others, violating their rights, self-esteem, and dignity. Needless to say, this type of behavior should be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, always remember that the culture of respect is the basis of well-being and happiness.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bodenmann, G. (2018) The Power of Listening: Lending an Ear to the Partner During Dyadic Coping Conversations. Journal of Family Psychology 32(6) ·DOI: 10.1037/fam0000421

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.