The other night I had the opportunity to visit with a delightful high school English teacher from another town.

The other night I had the opportunity to visit with a delightful high school English teacher from another town. I asked about the opportunities she has to encourage her students and offer unique challenges. Our discussion was centered on the importance of respect. Whenever I hear or say respect, I have a tendency to spell it out in my head. It reminds me of an old Aretha Franklin song. In the song, Aretha spells out the word as she sings and goes on to say, “Find out what it means to me.”

I love it! It is so true. Respect can have different meanings for different people. What could be better than taking time to understand what it means for someone and then offering it?

Some things are universally respectful and needed by all. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow was a humanist psychologist who created a pyramid of needs that he felt individuals must satisfy in order to develop, grow, attempt to satisfy higher level needs, and become the best they can be. 

‘Everyone begins life attempting to satisfy their basic needs ~ food, water, safety, etc. As those are satisfied, one can begin working on satisfying their higher level needs: love and belonging, self-esteem and continuously working on their self-actualization. If the things that satisfy the lower level needs are swept away, it is more difficult for a person to be concerned about the maintenance of their higher level needs.

Across the world, humans at various developmental stages, require certain levels of respect. Babies need mindful attention and unconditional love in order to become the best they can be. They need coos answered, diapers changed, appropriate sleep and food when they are hungry. Children need to be understood for who they are, be heard, have room to grow, have adequate sleep, and be a priority in their parents’ lives. Adults need to be listened to, have responsibility, and feel like they are important and are making a difference in the world.

In addition to these common needs, people have their own individual definitions of respect. It is important to understand “what it means” to people you live with, work with, or spend time with. Sometimes it may be the complete opposite of what you might think. Taking time to learn what someone needs in order to feel respected is a gift beyond any other. Take the time!