Respect is defined as honoring someone by treating them in a way that is polite, kind, or honors their wishes. It can be demonstrated through words, actions, or gifts.
There are many ways to show respect, and it is important to be aware of them in order to create and maintain positive relationships with the people around us.
One way to show respect is by using polite language. This includes speaking calmly and not raising our voice, using appropriate terms for people based on their rank or position in life, and avoiding swear words.
Respect Examples in Everyday Life
1. Taking your hat off in a church – This shows that you are honoring the longstanding traditions of the church.
3. Thanking someone for their help – This shows that you are grateful for their assistance and you are respecting them for helping you.
4. Tipping at a restaurant – This shows that you appreciate the service that you received and that you are willing to reward them for their hard work.
5. Saying please when asking for something – This is a customary phrase used to show that you are not demanding something of someone, but asking them and letting them use their free will to make a decision to help you or not.
6. Respecting someone’s wishes – If someone asks you not to do something, then you don’t do it as a sign that you do not wish to hurt their feelings.
7. Not interrupting someone when they are speaking – This shows that you think the person’s words are worth hearing and that they have the right to have their say.
8. Keeping a secret – If you were to share people’s secrets, it would show to them that you weren’t honoring them and their wishes. You’d lose a lot of friends because you’d be seen as a disrespectful person.
9. Withholding criticism – Sometimes, in our heads, we might think critical thoughts, but most of the time, it’s polite not to criticize others. Criticism should usually be withheld for certain occasions, such as when teaching, when you’d use a method called constructive criticism.
10. Giving people personal space – It’s respectful to leave space between yourself and others so they don’t feel crowded or claustrophobic. This means not standing too close behind them in line or on a train.
11. Letting someone go in front of you in traffic – Driving is a situation when a lot of people lose their manners. But respectful drivers will give space for people merging to fit in front of them.
12. Not raising your voice – Even when we want to scream at people, it’s best to keep a calm level voice. This demonstrates your respect for the people around you.
13. Taking the high road – Many of us were raised to treat people with respect, even when they mistreat us. This is called ‘taking the high road’, which is a metaphor for looking at two options and choosing the one that’s more honorable.
14. Using someone’s assigned title – Some people are giving a title like Mr, Mrs, Doctor, Professor, and so forth out of recognition for their status in society. By greeting them by their title, we’re showing reverence for them.
15. Using someone’s preferred pronouns – Some people prefer to be addressed by pronouns that they weren’t assigned at birth. For example, a trans woman will likely want to be referred to as ‘she/her’ rather than her pronouns assigned at birth, he/him. By referring to them by the pronouns that match their gender identity, you are letting them know you accept them for who they feel they are inside.
16. Avoiding inappropriate language – While it may be okay to swear when you’re at the pub with peers on a Saturday night, swearing is inappropriate in many public forums. By obeying the social norms in a setting, you’re being respectful of the people around you.
17. Explaining things politely – If you respect someone, you will try to explain things to them calmly and politely, even when you find them annoying. Demonstrating frustration in your voice is disrespectful.
18. Waiting your turn – It’s respectful to the people around you to wait your turn so everyone gets fair treatment. This is based on the first-come, first-served system of service in an egalitarian system.
19. Giving a pregnant woman or elderly person a seat on the train – Allowing people who are in more need than you the opportunity to take a seat shows that you respect their needs and rights in society. It means society can continue to operate politely and with decorum.
Respect Examples at Work
20. Being on time for a meeting – This shows that you value the other person’s time and don’t want to waste it.
21. Turning your phone off in meetings – If your phone rings in a meeting, it will demonstrate your lack of respect for the people present, especially if someone is giving a presentation. By turning your phone off, you’re letting people know you take their time seriously.
22. Leaving your desk clean – When you work in a shared space, it’s respectful to the people around you to leave your desk clean. This will make it a more professional environment that allows people to work without clutter and mess around them.
23. Not eating in meetings – Eating in a meeting can be a distraction to both yourself and the person talking. By saving your meal until after the meeting, you’re showing that you are paying attention and actively listening to the people in the room.
24. Following the dress code – Many offices have dress codes to maintain a sense of decorum and professionalism at work. By following that dress code, you’re indicating that you respect the workplace and are supporting the professional culture.
Respect Examples in School
25. Raising your hand if you want to speak – Students are asked to raise their hands so you can have just one person speaking at a time. Otherwise, the room would be so noisy that you won’t be able to work. By raising your hand, you’re acknowledging and honoring the importance of order and rules in the room.
26. Waiting for the teacher before entering the classroom – If the students are in the classroom without the teacher being present, then they are unsupervised, and this could be a problem if there is an accident. So, to respect the teacher who needs to keep everyone safe, you should wait outside until the teacher invites you into the classroom.
27. Turning off the monitor in the computer lab – When the teacher is talking in the computer lab, it is polite to stop working on the computer and watch the teacher. Commonly, students want to keep working on their computers. A respectful way to show your teacher that you’re giving them your attention (and not the teacher) is to turn off the screen so it’s not a distraction.
28. Keeping quiet in the library – A library is a space that has been set aside for study and reading. Noise can be a distraction to this goal. So, it’s respectful to stay quiet in the library to allow others to read and study.
29. Welcoming peers into a group – At school, we often do a lot of group work. When you get a new member joining your group, it’s respectful to welcome them and make them feel like a part of the team.
30. Not leaving when the bell rings – When my students hear the bell ring, they start packing their bags and looking for the door, even while I’m speaking! That’s pretty rude. Respectful students sit and wait, listening to instructions, and only leave when asked.
31. Throwing out your trash – No one wants a filthy classroom. The show respect to your fellow students, throw out your own trash so everyone can live in a clean environment.
32. Clapping after a presentation – Even if you weren’t super enthusiastic about someone’s presentation, giving them a polite applause at the end shows your encouragement, appreciation, and even respect for their efforts.
33. Thanking your teacher for their help – Teachers put their heart and soul into the job. So, giving them a thank you every now and then is a great way to show them that you are appreciative of them and respect them for what they do for you.
34. Being on time – Turning up on time to class is a sign that you value your teacher and your peers’ time and you are serious about your studies. This helps to demonstrate that you value your own education and the people who help make that happen.
35. Walking in the hallways – Running in the hallways can disrupt people, cause them to drop things, and cause people to trip or run into each other. It’s generally considered respectful to walk instead of run indoors.
36. Respecting others’ property – This means that you shouldn’t take other students’ pens, pencils, or other supplies. If you want them, it’s respectful to ask for permission before taking the property.
Respect Examples at Home
37. Taking your shoes off before entering the house – Some people don’t like you wearing shoes in your house because it could spread dirt around.
38. Asking politely for food – Demanding food from someone shows your lack of respect for them and what they do for you.
39. Waiting for everyone to sit before eating – This old tradition is a reminder that people are a family and they should do things as a group, not individualistically whenever they feel like it.
40. Keeping the volume down on the TV – This allows others to sleep or concentrate on their own tasks without being unfairly distracted by you.
41. Keeping quiet in the morning – If you wake up early, it’s polite not to wake others up so they can get their full night’s sleep. This will help you all live together more happily.
42. Putting the toilet seat down – For men, this sign of respect for the other people in your house can help you live a happier and more harmonious life. But more than that, it’s just the polite thing to do!
43. Cleaning up your mess – If you leave a mess lying around for someone else to clean up after you, then you’re showing that other person that you don’t care about them or their rights to live in a healthy environment.
44. Doing the dishes if you didn’t cook – This old social norm is a way to show thanks to the person who did the cooking. If they labored away to cook for you, the least you can do is wash the dishes.
Social norms generally guide us toward being respectful to one another and follow the golden rule: “do unto others as you would want done to yourself.” In other words, treat people the way you want to be treated.
Norms of respectful behavior are based on morals and ethics that we as a society have agreed are the right ways behave. Some examples of respectful behaviors are saying thank you to people who helped you, waiting your turn, and paying attention to people giving presentations.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.