Respect: Fostering equality in how we address others

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“I request you to post a blog on respectable positions in our country. Because of social media now a days children are not showing respect to CMs, PMs, or President. In those days there was only Doordarshan in which we appreciated their leadership and trusted them. But now because of lots of criticism people are not valuing their positions. That worries me a lot.”

This was a parent’s reasonable concern who shared it with me last week.

And that’s from where the ‘R’ post gets the idea and inspiration!

R – Respect: Fostering equality in how we address others

Post #18 of the series: Instilling Social Equality in Children

Unfortunately unlike English, Indian languages allow the speaker to differentiate between people who are old or young, and gives the choice to respect or not the person one is addressing. I remember a conversation I had with an old friend that she narrated with so much concern. She reached home in an auto and had to go inside to bring change for the auto driver. As she was busy asking her family for the change, she didn’t realize that she had addressed the auto driver with a word that was to address someone who was younger in age or in this case, with disrespect. When she came out with the change, the auto driver educated my friend that he was a BA graduate and by all means he deserved respect. My friend felt like being slapped, though she did not intentionally mean to disrespect him.

This way of addressing has ingrained so deep in us that we unconsciously address drivers, maids, bus conductors, garbage collectors – that is, domestic workers – on one side, and on the other side, popular figures like artists in the film industry and political leaders disrespectfully at least in their absence.

Addressing and social equality

Even if we did not talk anything ill or disrespectful of a person who we mentally deem low, that one word ‘it’ that we use for the person is just enough to send across the message to children who are hearing, that the person is someone not up to our level and does not deserve respect. It is highly likely that children who grow up hearing this discrimination in addressing will tend to form and reflect the ‘high and low’ demarcations in the society they will be facing in the future.

Without further ado, let’s step into the change!

To change a habit it takes time. But beyond time, it takes a sense of importance we attach to the change. If we understand the immediate necessity to keep a watch of our words, we will do it from the next word we would utter.

Most commonly, political leaders we don’t support will be at the receiving end of our disrespectful addressing. Like the parent in the introduction said, let’s begin the change from here. It can be the most difficult thing – to suddenly start addressing someone we don’t like with respect. But if were to contemplate, it is in such behaviour that we disrobe ourselves of ego and hatred and get a step closer to humanity. We may not necessarily start supporting the person’s ideals, but despite the difference in opinions, it is still possible for us to address them with respect when we talk about them to children and others.

respect quote by albert einstein

The next important area is addressing domestic helps. Why do most of us call them with no or less dignity? Because of their jobs, status, appearance, clothing…? Having come this far in the series, we don’t need further emphasis on bridging the differences. Either while we speak directly to our helpers or during a conversation about them in their absence, let us maintain the respect and dignity that a ‘human’ deserves – as simple as this!

The extended family members, the neighbours, friends – some might not be to our liking; yet, let’s not forego our principle to address everyone with respect. Remember, how we address others is more about who we are than who the other person is.

It is also common that some parents address their children and other children with respect the practice of which at the first place would need no reformation in the future provided it is extended to every other person.

respect quote

Respect, beyond addressing

I was watching an intro video of a personal development course yesterday. Something that impressed my attention was the term, ‘respectfully disregard’. As the parent pointed out, hate-messages and criticisms keep coming into our inbox every other minute. To our part, me might as well contribute such messages sometimes. That is, in a group of hundred people, there can be hundred different opinions. Some can enlighten us, while some can put us in turmoil.

When we begin arguing over things that we cannot change, over time unintentionally we would develop disrespect on people and communities – exactly, what that is happening in our country now. However, if we learn to ‘respectfully disregard’, that is, “I am not going to agree to your points though I will not fail to respect you”, what will remain is peace.

If you would agree to this point, let’s infuse it in our children. Else, you may well respectfully disregard!

Take the responsibility to correct an improper addressing by children

If our children were to address a leader, a prominent person, our neighbour, a relative, a teacher, an aged person, a community helper – just anyone for that matter who are older than they are – let’s not remain quiet. We have a greater responsibility in correcting them then and there. It can be your children, my children, or any child we observe at school or residential area, we will never be wrong in correcting them. It can be a small step but if many of us did that, the kind of respectful tone that the society will hear in chorus tomorrow will be a precious change in human history.

Showing respect raises self-respect on the other side

The next time you speak to a cab driver on the phone, it is ok to call him ‘sir’. The next time you want to give some instructions to the garbage collectors, it is ok to address them ‘sir’ or ‘madam’. These unusual changes might seem odd to you, to them, to the passers-by in the beginning. But when we make it a practice, we would spread the practice and at one point, it will become the norm. That’s how every little norm in the society has emerged.

Not to be missed, it is going to raise the self-respect of all the people we are talking about. In other words, that is how both sides will collectively evolve!

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