When we say that the need for respect is universal, what are we saying? (updated)

Helmut shows respect by keeping to schedule. Baharat from Mumbei shows respect by answering calls from his clients immediately, even when he is running a meeting. Moshe from Israel shows respect by giving you as much time as needed, ignoring the “formal” schedule he is supposed to be following. Paco shows a huge respect for people, yet their time is not a valued resource for Paco, so his US colleague Paul feels a huge lack of respect.

Daw from Huahin Thailand gives respect by never inconveniencing people with whom he works. In public meetings, he is courteous and tends to be amicable to all suggested directions, reserving his disagreements for a private conversation. He sees the gap between what he allows himself to say in public and private as giving a huge amount of respect.

Mark from St Paul gives respect by separating between people and issues. He can deliver a critique of an idea, but he never is critical of a person; he is careful to remain civil. Mark sees in civility the ultimate manifestation of respect.

Ngai Lam from Hong Kong shows respect by always being in her “professional” persona, concealing much of her emotions, expression of which may be seen as showing lack of respect for the work place.

Hank from Holland as well as Moti from Israel show respect by being blunt so that no one needs to guess what their intention is, which would be disrespecting and uncaring.

Olive from Germany and Oya from Japan show respect by a very formal use of language when addressing people who merit respect.

So when we say that the need for respect is universal, what are we saying?

Actually nothing. The word “respect”, when spelt out and operationalized, means nothing in common across cultures.

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9 thoughts on “When we say that the need for respect is universal, what are we saying? (updated)

  1. That the need is universal but as you so well point out, the way that need manifests is culturally variable & we need not only to be sensitive to that ourselves but to find ways to create awareness of those differences within our organizations.

    • I agree with Robin and Tom – the need is universal and even the “feeling” but how it is manifested is the question and the culturally sensitive and tricky part. This makes for interesting discussion in group cultural awareness sessions. And of course it is quite complex, with other factors coloring the “right answer”. For example, how does power distance or hierarchy overlay?

  2. Robin
    The question is the need for “what” . For me, the differences are so huge that creating a common term creates confusion.
    Thanks for following my blog

  3. I think respect is an attitude that another person is valuable, intelligent, has something to contribute, etc. It shows up in different ways – keeping schedule, answering calls, airing disagreements in private rather than in meetings, being civil. It is the attitude which needs to be inculcated. Others can often read our attitudes whether or not we follow the expected norms of demonstrating them. If they sense your respect, they will forgive your cultural blunders.

      • Hi all,
        So, we agree the need for respect is universal. And to build a respect relationship we just need to know the meaning of it within the culture we want to establish this relationship. It seems like the introduction to this discussion is a very good start.
        But also in a respect relationship we need to communicate to the other side what respect means to me/us. Obviously a risky business, but impossible?

  4. This is a very important topic – and applies to all human interaction – even within cultures. We all have a different perspective of what it means to be ‘respectful’ and respected but how to demonstrate it varies. I find this even with age groups – the things that were ‘respectful’ in my youth are meaningless to many young people today.
    What is respect? It is in my view, acknowledging the value of another person – sometimes as an equal (meaning a fellow human being), sometimes as a superior (earned in some way). We all want to be of value – I see this in the elderly a lot; depression occurs because they feel they have become worthless and they accuse others of not being respectful of all they have seen and done.

    • so you say that the intention is similar
      but they way it is expressed is different.
      so try this….
      Z thinks Y is an idiot-
      So, he agrees with everything he says so as not to embarrass him….
      isnt that a bit stretched.
      isnt is easier t say that behaviorally, respect across cultures has little in common?
      asking for a friend 🙂

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