Recently I have just joined a one-year training course that deals with the different stages of human development, based on an individual, a group and an evolutionary perspective. The training includes a personal test with a follow-up conversation with the course leader, during which the participant and the course leader have an opportunity to develop and deepen certain answers in different areas.

I have not completed any university education and in some contexts I can notice that I have critical thoughts about myself, even though I have completed many workshops and training programs outside the formal education system. When the course leader connected the results of the test to various parts of my solid educational background, I really appreciated it, because her respectful response contributed both to self-respect as well as silencing my inner critic.

The need for respect

The experience of respect, both from others and from myself, is a very lovely state to be in. According to an Internet dictionary, respect is about showing respect and reverence. If we assume that need is something that contributes to an organism’s survival and flourishing, we can therefore ask ourselves what significance respect plays for this. How does respect contribute to a more fulfilling life?

If human’s original coexistence was based on equal relationships, it was certainly the case that we liked to socialise and cooperate with those who showed respect. Imagine that you have a choice to engage with two people – one who you perceive as respectful and one who treats you disrespectfully. Who do you choose? Evolution has most certainly rewarded individuals and groups that are good at collaborating and solving problems together. Therefore surrounding yourself with respectful individuals might have had a high survival value.

Different strategies

As we transitioned from hunter-gatherers to farming the land and a more stationary existence, we could begin to accumulate more possessions. We specialised and our egalitarian lifestyle turned into more status-driven hierarchical relationships. The need for respect was still there, but now expressed itself more in subordinating to people higher up in the hierarchy. We carry with us these different expressions of respect and have a tendency to either rebel or submit.

The strategies for meeting the need for respect really differ between cultures, people and contexts. In some cultures it is respectful to always agree with someone in a superior position and in others on the contrary – to openly express an opposite opinion. For some women in Sweden, it can be an expression of respect if someone holds the door open for them. For other women, the same act can be perceived as an expression of disrespect: “Does he think we can’t open the door ourselves?!”

The strategies for expressing respect also differ within the same individual. For example, I can greet someone politely, and in the next moment say something to a friend that sounds like a put down to many people. Likewise, depending on what mood I’m in, the same person can say exactly the same thing, which in one situation I perceive as a lack of respect and in the other as a sign of respect.

Another example is playing with judgments in close relationships, which for some people can be a way of communicating: “I trust that we respect each other. Therefore I can relax and say things that sound like insults, but which in fact express friendship and love”. At the same time, it can be vulnerable to admit to our close ones that we appreciate a more traditional respectful treatment. Maybe we fear hearing something like: “Don’t you trust my good intentions? I thought we could be relaxed and playful with each other.”

How do you want to be met with respect?

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Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)

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On 11 October at 18:00-18:45 CEST, you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Paula Rossi. We will talk about the need for respect.

Sign up for the Needs’ Year and you will receive a link to Zoom.

If you read this afterwards, you can watch the recording when you become a premium subscriber. Check the details HERE.

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