How to respond to disrespect

Key message: People with respect should help each other and be role models for people without respect.

 

This is the continuation of the text on Learn-Study-Work "What is Respect?".

 

How do people become disrespectful?

If a person with great self-awareness is insulted by a disrespectful person, that person will remain calm and just shake his head. A person without self-awareness will get upset and respond with his or her own insults. In my opinion, a lack of self-awareness is the reason why people behave disrespectfully.

 

There are two reasons for a lack of self-confidence:

1. Those who have had very bad experiences with other people in their lives lose their self-confidence and develop hate. Hate arises from "disappointed love", by which is meant physical and psychological violence (denied recognition, withdrawal of love).

 

 "Astrid Lindgren said in her acceptance speech on the occasion of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (1978) ... 'In no newborn child is there a seed slumbering from which good or evil will necessarily sprout. Whether a child grows up to be a warm-hearted, open and trusting person with a sense of the common good or a cold, destructive, egoistic person is decided by those to whom the child is entrusted in this world, depending on whether they show him what love is, or not.' Research has confirmed the children's author's thesis. ... People who were beaten a lot in childhood are 4.5 times more likely to be violent themselves as adults compared to 'beloved children,' according to their own reports. They were also 6.5 times as likely to have seriously considered suicide." (www.sabine-ihle.ch/dokumente/gewaltfreie-erziehung.pdf, 11.08.22, p. 12)

 

Example of missing self-confidence:
"As the psychotherapy progresses, it also becomes possible for the patient to make a connection to her experience as a child and adolescent in her parents' home. She reports that her strict and successful parents had always taught her that one had to perform a lot in order to be somebody. As a rule, her parents had responded to school failures or average performance with accusations or - what had been even worse - with an icy silence. She had usually blamed herself for it." (Sternek, K. (2013). Erfolg und Misserfolg. Zur Aktualität und psychotherapeutischen Bedeutung der Untersuchungen von Ferdinand Hoppe. Phänomenal–Zeitschrift für Gestalttheorefische Psychotherapie, 5(1-2), p. 57)

 

2. Anyone who thinks he or she is better than other people loses the recognition of others and thus enters a vicious circle: the denied recognition causes more arrogance, which makes the recognition even smaller.

 

Example "narcissistic (self-loving) men":

"The narcissistic man likes to show his brilliant side. ... For all his self-assurance, he can ultimately only be tolerated in small doses. ... He must be the center of attention ... and needs constant confirmation. ... He has no respect for anything or anyone ... In reality, besides the grandiose ego, there is an enormous emotional insecurity ... If they [narcissistic men] are not praised at work, if they cannot develop a distinct positive sense of identity, they fail mercilessly. Then the people around them are turned into scapegoats ..." (Telfener, U. (2017). Hilfe, ich liebe einen Narzissten!: Überlebensstrategien für alle Betroffenen. Arkana, p. 26 - 31)

 

How to "convince" a person to be respectful

There are many different types of disrespectful behavior. Every situation is different. When a person treats me disrespectfully, the following thought process should go on in my mind:

  1. Is it really disrespect or a misunderstanding?
  2. Stay calm. If it is disrespect, there are many ways to respond.
  3. I need to analyze the situation. E.g., how big is the disrespect and how dangerous is the offender?
  4. How should I respond to the disrespect in this situation?

Each of the following responses is correct in a particular situation:

 

1. I can submit to the person and accept the disrespectful treatment.
If there is a higher goal at stake, it may be right for me to submit to the disrespectful person. For example, if a person threatens me with a firearm and says, "Give me your money!" Then I do whatever the person asks in order to survive. Other example: If I am on probation at a new company and a new colleague is disrespectful to me, then I don't fight back. I can do that when the probationary period is over.

 

2. I can ignore the disrespectful behavior.
I simply do not react. This is useful, for example, if the disrespectful action is not of great importance or if the person is afraid of me. For example, if a new colleague is afraid that I will talk badly about him to the boss, he may attack me. By not reacting, that person sees that I don't want a fight and we can become friends.

 

3. I can tell the person to treat me with respect without discussion.
To people who have no respect and lie, we should speak our mind without discussing with them. Liars cannot be convinced with arguments. For example, if someone yells at me, then I can say to the person, "I find it to be very impolite of you to yell at me." Or if the person makes a derogatory comment, then I ask, "Are you trying to insult me?"

In the USA, "Stop - Walk - Talk" is taught to children to avoid bullying, see e.g. www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKbtmrCxC1g.

 

4. I can have a rational discussion with the person.

We need to distinguish between a person who is temporarily disrespectful and a "certified asshole." With the first person an objective conversation makes sense.

 

"It isn't fair to call someone a certified asshole based on a single episode ... Nearly all of us act like assholes at times ... I once became angry with a staff member who I (wrongly) believed was trying to take an office away from our group. I sent an insulting e-mail to her ... She told me, "You made me cry." I later apologized to her. And although I don't demean one person after another day in and day out, I was guilty of being a yerk during that episode. ... It is far harder to qualify as a certified asshole: a person needs to display a persistant pattern, to have a history of episodes ..." (Sutton, R. I. (2007). The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn't. Balance)

 

It is possible to convince a person that is temporarely disrespectful that such behavior has no long-term benefit, since only respectful people trust and help each other.

 

"Social trust is a fragile value; lies [and disrespectful behavior] initiate its disintegration. We all pay a price in reduced willingness to trust others and to enjoy the benefits that such trust makes possible." (Smith, T. (2003). The metaphysical case for honesty. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 37, p. 517)

 

5. I can get upset and argue emotionally with the person.
If I react like this, it will probably lead to a long conflict.

 

6. I can also treat the person disrespectfully.
If the person becomes afraid of me, he will stop his disrespectful behavior.

 

Every person has the right to self-defense. § 227 of the German Civil Code states:

"(1) An act required by self-defense is not unlawful.
(2) Self-defense is that defense which is necessary to avert a present unlawful attack from oneself or another."

The attack must be imminent or just happened. It must not have happened some time ago. § 230 BGB says:

"Self-help may not go further than is necessary to avert the danger."

So if I am physically attacked, then I may defend myself appropriately. I am also allowed to defend myself against psychological attacks (mobbing, insult, defamation, spreading false facts), but not with physical violence.

 

It is always important to collect evidence of the disrespectful behavior. Then there is the possibility to take action against it. Disrespectful people do not like it at all when their behavior is made public.

 

As a general rule, we should avoid contact with disrespectful people if possible (avoidance of stress). Nevertheless, we also treat such people with respect, that is, we are polite to them (because we are polite to all people). When they notice that we are staying calm and avoiding them, it annoys them the most and hopefully they will leave us alone.

 

"Let people talk ... Stay polite and don't say anything. That annoys them the most." (The band "Die Ärzte" in their song "Lasse redn")

 

Read the first part of this text "What is Respect?"