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Respect: How do you define respect and how do you experience it?

For me, respect involves understanding rather than  judging. As a human being and a social animal, I encounter inevitable situations where I interact with others. Some of these interactions might be voluntary, some might not, but all of them require the participation of at least two entities and therefore a platform where attitudes such as respect and disrespect can take place. 

One time, I entered into a conversation with someone about happiness. Both of us agreed that happiness is important, but the other person thought my reason was superficial and elevated her own view about happiness, leaving little room for my perspective to stand. The existence of one perspective does not eradicate the possibility of another. I felt judged and disrespected in spite of our agreement about the overall importance of happiness. 

Another time, I disagreed with a person about whether schools should expand the scope of Latin texts written by men and, for example, include more Latin texts written by women. There was little common ground between our two points of view. I felt quite intrigued by her largely opposite perspective. I appreciated how she gave me time to talk until I finished and listened carefully to what I said throughout; I could feel that she strived to understand my perspective. Even though in the end she was not much swayed, her respect for me allowed me to offer my respect to her in a mutual way, and the conversation was much more fruitful and satisfying.

When I participate in a Living Room Conversation, I remember that all the participants read the conversation guidelines, which emphasize respect for all. It isdue to such emphasis and the resulting atmosphere that I feel that even when I do not agree with another participant, I am able to express my thoughts freely and receive something even more valuable—an alternative perspective that can broaden my scope. Providing respect for others is a way of providing respect for oneself, opening up the door to different voices so that we can disrupt our preconceptions and, instead of judging, understand both ourselves and the world around us in a better light.

By Fengrui (Sophia) He

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