What’s Trust Got to Do With Respect?

On the one hand, the connection between trust and respect seems clear. As Thomas Friedman put it:

I’m often asked how I, an American Jew, have been able to operate so successfully in the Arab world. My answer is simple: it is to be a good listener. It has never failed me. Listening is a sign of respect. If you truly listen to the other person, they will then listen to what you have to say.

Aretha Franklin just spelled it out.

Behaving respectfully toward others is likely to increase your trustworthiness in others’ eyes, and to make them more likely to trust you.

But should it work the other way? What if someone is disrespectful to us? Should we then behave in a less trustworthy way toward them? Should we trust them less?

There’s an equally venerable point of view that says get over it, sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me, someone can hurt you emotionally only with your permission, hear other people but do not allow your emotions to be held hostage by theirs.

Of course, sometimes name-calling is a prelude to violence; disrespect can signal untrustworthiness. Only a fool doesn’t look for a nearby exit door in such situations.

But we over-rate how often that is true.

This territory of trust, listening and respect is rife with opportunities for self-improvement. Strive to respect others—not in the ways you would be respected, but in ways the other person would consider as being respected. Which means listening, very attentively.

But when disrespected, strive to rise above it. Return respect for disrespect, by listening for motives and for understanding.

Does this mean holding ourselves to a higher standard than others? And is that disrespectful in itself?

I’d like to think not. On some absolute scale, all of us are awful at this. When you behave disrespectfully, notice it and resolve to do better in future. When someone is disrespectful towards you, notice how much like them you are, and resolve to overlook it on the spot.

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