Frequently, those who come out of an abusive relationship are confused about what “respect” means. This happens because an abusive person will often say things to his or her partner such as “You don’t respect me. You are so disrespectful. How about a little respect?!”
What the abusive person means by “respect” is compliance.
So the victim comes to view “respect” as meaning to comply (or obey) and mistakenly thinks that if they don’t eagerly comply with another’s wishes or if they state their own wishes or opinions that are different, then that’s not being respectful. What is respect, really? How do I know that I am treating another person with respect?
Respecting a person means that you view that person as important and worthy of special regard. It doesn’t mean that you obey that person. Instead, it means that you give that person’s opinion weight—more so than you would someone you don’t know.
An example of a behavior that is disrespectful to another person is pressuring him or her. Now, there’s a difference between pressuring and being persistent. Pressuring is continuing to try to get your way after someone has said “No.” Being persistent is repeatedly asking when someone hasn’t given you an answer yet. Pressuring is saying something like this: “I am not caring that you’re uncomfortable with this. I want to get what I want!” Ask yourself this question: would you pressure someone whom you really value, respect, and admire?
One example of respecting another person (besides not pressuring him or her) is trusting him or her to able to deal with his or her own struggles. That means your mindset and behaviors reflect this: “I do not worry about another’s problems. Nor do I give help unless it is asked for, because doing that sends the message that I don’t trust the other person’s ability to find solutions.”
Another example of respecting others is respecting their time. This would mean that when I call someone, I ask them something like this: “Is this a good time for you to talk? I think what I have to discuss will take about 30 minutes.” Then you have respected this person (held him or her up as an important person) by inquiring first if this time of theirs is available, versus just assuming that you can take it.
Pressuring is one of several categories of Types of Disrespectful Behavior (discovered in our research) that portends violence—particularly when it is coupled with at least one form of Intensely “Positive” Behavior.
If you think your relationship (or the relationship of someone you know) might be heading for abuse or already is abusive, it is crucial that you learn about the earliest warning signs of abuse. Please attend the Detecting the Pink Flags Before They Turn Red boot camp or attend private or group coaching with Dr. Lang so that you can learn the early warning signs.