Respect - Too Much Is Too Bad?

I don’t know how it was 50 years ago. But, what I have seen in my more than a decade long work experience is that those who have mastered the art of respecting individuals grow leaps and bounds. So are those who don’t give more respect than required too. It’s more obvious to more people today than some years ago that growth in any field is not purely out of technical competency but is decided based on many other factors including the people skills, which is one of the top most in the list. When we say people skills, it is not just respecting individuals, it also means handling them the right way. It is getting the most out of people by being good with them and treating them in the best possible manner, which also includes being tough with them when required. Needless to say, one need not be tough for the sake of being it or to test if s/he could be tough while feeling like that.

I have been criticized for not being good at respecting elders in family many times as I am seen to be someone who takes them light. I thought it was not required with family members because they were just my own family members. It is not that I scold them or disrespect them by lowering the standard of the language. In their point of view, my gestures and the way I put forth my ideas are not respectful. To put it straight, I should always take their feedback and give respect to them by implementing as they suggest. Instead, I don’t even go to them for ideas nor do I attempt implementing any of their ideas if they just come on my way. Most of the times, my plans just get executed without anyone’s review. I never bother to get them reviewed neither to make my plans better nor to make the reviewers feel better.

On the other hand, I was convinced that respecting each individual I come across (irrespective of how good or horrible s/he is) is a key to professional success. Not only in professional life, but also outside the compound walls of my house, it is better to be respectful with everyone to avoid any unwanted problems. Ayn Rand tells in her book ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’ that all that we call as ethical behavior could be attributed to selfishness. In simple words, we learn a lot of good behaviors just to ensure that we have a peaceful life and not necessarily to make the living a better experience for others. I couldn’t read her book beyond a few pages after getting the gist of what she was trying to say, but I could relate to this point very well.

More than a decade back, I wrote in a poem in my college days, “Next to human beings, I am scared of snakes and dogs”. I don’t know how much you could relate to it or appreciate it, but this is one of the rarest lines that keep coming to my mind till today. It reflects me and my fears. So, it would stay on for a long time. I am scared like crazy about strangers. Snakes and dogs can just bite at the max. Whereas, everything ‘strange’ that I have seen so far has been done by ‘strangers’ (is there a pun here?), i.e. human beings only. All unprecedented crimes are committed only by human beings not by any other creature. So, I cultivated this virtue of respecting individuals just to be safe in this extraordinarily unsafe planet. For example, in a street fight, the guy that crosses the limit in his words gets slapped first than the one who is more watchful about his words (this is just a hypothesis that could be challenged, which is exactly what I am going to do in the remaining part of this post). This made me very conscious and cautious about my behavior with the strangers and outsiders.

Now, if we just go back to the home scenario, irrespective of whatever I do and speak, I am doubly sure that my family members will not do anything unpredictable to me. That’s the reason I have been least bothered about my modes of expression with them. It is just my personality trait and the reasoning for that. I have also seen the reverse phenomenon. They are extremely good with family members. They don’t even allow polluted air touching their loved ones, but wouldn’t hesitate getting into any bloody fight with strangers even for silly things like reserving a seat in the bus. Their reasoning is, “I have to see their face every day and live with my family forever. But I may never have to meet a stranger again or choose to avoid them if I want to, after the incident.”! It does make sense. But, my thought process starts mostly from safety point of view whereas theirs… I don’t know from where.

It’s so good to respect elders in our culture. I give too much importance to one’s age than required. I find it very difficult looking at an old peon working under a young officer. When the peon that is of the officer’s father’s age bends in front of the officer with respect, I feel so bad for that and curse everything under the sun. That scene would travel with me for days. This, I think, is an Indian phenomenon. It may not be a problem for others. I have been liked by a lot of elders for giving the due (sometimes undue) respect to them in outside world (uncles and aunts are still cribbing for my negligence). I have reaped good benefits by doing that. I have been more peaceful than those who disrespect them. But, I should also admit that I have got into a lot of problems by respecting people more than they deserve just because of their age. This is what I want to discuss with you today about.

I have come across a good number of nuts that think too big of them and expect each one to respect them in a better way than they are treated. It’s good not to be worried about their expectations because had we worried about it would we have fallen in the trap of listening to them and satisfying them, which has no end. These people just express their expectation about respect. On ignoring, they keep complaining. If you take their complaints seriously and start taking them seriously, you are gone. Their expectation would increase. You would have to keep on raising the bar, which would only land you in trouble. It is just good to be ignoring them than to listen. They are respect-beggars. They don’t know the difference between commanding and demanding respect. Unfortunately, they do not know that it comes automatically based on their behavior, not by demanding it.

The next category of people is the ones that don’t think too big about themselves, but we make them think so. They may not deserve that respect and they wouldn’t have got such respect from anyone else on earth. They wouldn’t have expected such respect from you also. They get overly excited on receiving your never-before-respect and start behaving funny after that. What happens with them is that they would like you for your right (only we know how ‘right’ it is) judgment about them because you are giving them that sort of respect, but would start playing with you too much as you are the one to entertain them so much ever in their life. They would think, ‘Okay, this guy thinks I am big. So, I have to keep showing my bigness to retain the respect.’! But, what they don’t realize is that in the process they would only end-up losing their respect. They would advise you too much every time they see you. They would find too many faults with you to prove that they are the best masters for you. They would continue all these until you get rid of them forever or slap and say “shut-up man”. They might feel bad after you slap as they would realize that they have lost the only person that respected them.

There is another similar category that is same as above but they wouldn’t even like you initially as much as the previous lot did. They would start treating you like human waste from the moment they realize that you respect them. For them, you are worthless because you are respecting them, who are more worthless than yourself. The more you increase your respect for them the more they would reduce it for you. They wouldn’t leave you till death, theirs or yours. For these clowns also, you are the first one to have exposed them to such a high level of respect ever in their life. How can they leave you?! Even if you slap and ask them to shut up, these guys would only feel bad for what happened to them but not for losing your relationship. They will take vacation from office and bitch about you all across the world for doing it to them. :)

So, all these are only taking us to a conclusion that we have to be very careful about deciding on the right quantity of respect to be given to each individual. Many a times, it becomes difficult for some of us to take it back or reduce it after giving too much of it. I have seen some people do it (taking it back or reducing it) very easily and successfully. They need not be worried about anything. They are the street-smart lots. Nothing is a problem for them. My profession has taught me that where there is no measurement there is no improvement. But, these guys need neither measurement nor any improvement. It is all ad-hoc for them. But, for us the sensitive lots, quantifying respect would surely help. Though it seems like we don’t lose anything by giving it too much, my opinion is that we do lose a lot by giving it too much to wrong people. The lot includes a piece of peace of mind!


  1. thanks...I needed this for a report of helped a lot!!

  2. Thanks Anonymous. Can't believe this. ;-)


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