Why You Should Respect Someone You Hate or Dislike
Can you respect someone you hate, or really, really, really dislike? In short, the answer is yes. Not only can you respect someone who seemingly stands for everything you are against, you should. This isn’t meant to be a preachy post about how you should love your enemy blah, blah, blah. But given the current state of the Union and quite frankly the world, I can’t help but feel that this post is just so necessary. Specifically, I want to create some structural damage to the walls of the boxes people are inadvertently putting themselves and others in. Flexibility in the right moments can make a huge difference in facilitating dialogue and finding common ground.
Walls are the antithesis of flexibility, and man-made, ideologically constructed ones are shooting up all over, and doing what they do best: dividing. People are up in arms (for good reasons!). But there’s just GOT to be a better way! Let’s break this down in both scientific and artistic terms.
The Science of Respect
We humans are creatures of habit. Once we set our hearts and minds on something, it can be extremely difficult to deviate. This is related to the concept of Cognitive Dissonance. A psychological term that refers to the discomfort that comes from incorporating contradictory information into our thoughts, feelings and actions. As a result of the discomfort this causes, we change something to make it all fit.
For most people, most of the time, this means we change whatever it is that we need to in order for our original thoughts, feelings, and actions to continue making sense. We want things to make sense, to feel good, and we desire internal harmony as we navigate this complex world. Homeostasis.
You might be wondering just how all of this relates to respect. For the aforementioned reasons, once you decide that someone does not deserve your respect, deciding that they do in fact deserve your respect is hard. For some it may seem damn near impossible.
Why’s it so hard?
As we go about our lives we categorize and assimilate information all day. This is how we are able to stay somewhat sane as we incorporate vast amounts of never ending stimuli. We categorize people, too. And the discomfort the comes from hearing someone voice an opinion so starkly different than yours can be overwhelming.
For some people it simply boils down to whether or not to respect a person. Whatever your politics or opinions may be, once you lose respect, you sort of give way for your emotions to be the driving force behind your interactions with these people.
Emotions are crazy, and anyone who has lived more than 1 minute knows that they can drive you to do things that aren’t necessarily in line with who you think you are. Plus, really hearing an overly emotional person can be a difficult task to someone with an untrained ear.
The Art of Respect
Allow me to speak in somewhat abstract terms here. When we respect someone, we often think carefully about our interaction with them. Whether this thoughtful process happens consciously or subconsciously, there is some level of control exerted over it. When we decide that someone does not deserve respect, we relinquish some of that control.
We’ve all seen it, in ourselves and/or our friends. This is especially evident on social media, and it is saturating our lives. Specifically, it has become commonplace for people to make fun of, put down, and use derogatory remarks against others who think or feel differently than they do.
Ironically, in a sense, this reinforces some of the tenets of humanity that so many people are fighting for. The idea that ultimately, we are all the same.
So how does one rise above it all?
In my humble opinion the first step is to decide that every human being on this planet deserves respect. Period. This idea opens up a whole realm of possibilities related to conflict resolution, inner peace, and understanding. You may be asking: why should I respect someone who disrespects me and/or who/what I care about? I’ve got three reasons.
- Inner Peace: when you respect other human beings, you do right by yourself. Most people like to think of themselves as being good people, who are well intentioned. Ask yourself how being deliberately disrespectful to another person fits into the narrative of who you want to be. Be honest. Before you argue this point, also remember; “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”. Just sayin’.
- Understanding that when you respect others, you transcend hate. Respect sets the foundation for love- and although loving someone you hate may seem like an impossibly foreign concept, hate and love don’t live that far away from each other on the spectrum. Love heals. Gandhi would agree, I’m sure.
- Conflict Resolution: When you aren’t mired down in the emotions that come along with disrespect and hate, you can think more clearly and take in more information. This will help facilitate the social and personal change you desire.
Also, it will probably be helpful to remember that respect does not excuse poor behavior. It simply means that you value and recognize a person’s irrevocable humanity.
Art Can Be Learned
It is an art to be able to transcend emotions, while simultaneously voicing disagreement and dissent. Especially when we consider the complexities that come along with the myriad of emotions associated with feeling attacked and disrespected. This form of art can definitely be learned and practiced.
In my work with clients I often talk about the connection between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. How they all influence one another, and how we can exert control of the process through mindfulness. Being mindful and aware of how a thought (stemming from what someone else said or did), makes you feel goes a long way.
When you can recognize and name a feeling, you can make sure it does not influence your behavior. This is a process that allows for a more concrete sense of self. It also fosters the growth of a flexible mind. When you have mastered this process, you are sure to experience life in a more positive light.
Eventually, the individuals who once had such influence over your happiness will be distinctly separate from your sense of self. As a result, listening, validating, and facilitating a thoughtful conversation will no longer be a threat to internal harmony.
Sounds nice doesn’t it?