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Respect: Critical Element In Relationships

Behind the scenes each week there is a special person who helps me edit my work. She has been there since I started this column. She adds tremendous value and depth to these weekly articles. Her name is Gayle Dulcey. Gayle is one of the most highly educated people I know a former high school and college English teacher, a seminary scholar, and an educational psychologist. Most important, she is my mom, my best friend and my trusted mentor.

My mom, (we will call her Gayle in this article), mentors hundreds of people each year. She helps them heal their relationships. I interviewed her this week as a way of introducing her to you. I hope that, as you read this article, you get a taste of her wisdom and the deep love she has for others.

Mom, what would you say is the most important aspect of a relationship?

Gayle (G): For me, the most important aspect of a relationship is respect. By respect, I mean first that a relationship must be mutual. It has to offer a win/win situation, something of value to each person involved. Let’s take the two of us. I can think of nothing I value more than having you see me deeply, having you see the real me. Similarly, I can think of nothing of greater value to offer you than to see the true you, to see you and accept you just as you are at any moment. I am speaking of looking beyond your bodily appearance and beyond your constructed (ego) identity–your personality. I am speaking of seeing your true Essential Self. I want to see the beautiful, distinct, ever-developing design that our Creator has given you. Seeing the essence of another person provides the foundation for a wholesome and productive relationship. That’s not just true in intimate family relationships. It applies to all types of relationships, even a casual, temporary one that you might share interacting with a neighbor, a fellow worker, a merchant at the market or even a passerby you greet on the street.

Patricia (P): When you talk about true being, are you saying that we need to see people and respect them not for their physical appearance, not for what they are wearing, not for what they are driving, but to go deeper than that–to look into the special gifts or talents or abilities, the special qualities they have, their soul-self, the love they have inside them? Is that what you are saying?

G: Yes. I look for the uniqueness each person brings into life. Every one of us has a contribution to make. Let’s take the teacher-student relationship as an example. My experience in teaching has shown me that every single student I have ever had is valuable. People yearn to be seen for their inner worth. They are hungry for that. When someone is seen truly, as worthy of life and is made welcome, it is a life affirming event. A person knows when that happens. People want you to look at them this way, and they want to feel that they are free to see you.

If I can see the worth in my students, a certain magic occurs. As authentic mutual seeing develops, it forms a foundation for a sacred trust. The relationship becomes a space in which both can relax and be open and express themselves without fear. When this magic is sparked, it ignites the flames of creativity. It makes way for success. I have found this to be true in teaching and in life. Respect nurtures friendships, relationships in the workplace, romantic relationships, marriages, parent-child relationships all relationships.

P: This magic that you are talking about, it’s almost as if, when we respect someone, and they sense that from us, it can actually bring out the best in them.

G: Exactly. That has been my experience. It can bring out the best in both of us. And furthermore, it does.

Initially, in relationships, we might depend on each other. In other words, you might think that because I see the true worth in you, you need me. But, if I will stay with you, continue to see the best in you, you will begin to grow. I must willingly allow you to be a work-in-progress, to express your humanness–your fears, your immaturity, your faltering, your misdirected attempts at life. You must allow me the same room for my immaturity and mistakes and insensitivities. We support one another as each moves beyond insecurity and experiments with life, to find areas in which he or she can shine.

This sort of respect takes patience and perseverance. It is an on-going “re-seeing.” If two people commit to this, each can develop a sense of personal confidence. If we choose to continue working together in this way, one day each will begin to realize, “Oh, wow, the value is in me! I enjoy our relationship, but I don’t need her (or him). I have the power to do well on my own!” This is the gift we can give to each other. If I give this, you will find yourself developing courage and enthusiasm. You will begin to take the new-found forms of expression you are using in our relationship and offer them to the world. The same will be true for me.

P: People might think, “I need the acceptance of another person.” But once they experience that acceptance and they see they have something to offer in themselves, they can begin to flourish and come into their own as well. Is that what you are saying?

G: That is what I am saying.

P: What are some of the ways we can learn to show other people that we respect and care about them?

G: There are some simple ways to show others you value them. Notice, I said “simple,” not “easy.” These practices take concentration and commitment.

The first way to show someone you care is to offer your Presence. Actually, giving the gift of your total attention is a form of respect. We need to find the beauty, the special gifts another has, the things that make us smile and focus on them as we interact. Expect to see the good. Then validate it as you see it.

P: So in other words, when you are interacting with someone, if you are expecting them to act in the “same old way” or if you focus on what annoys you or gets you worked up, you are likely to find that. On the other hand, if you can just relax and be present and watch for the good, you will actually begin to see the person in a new light. And what you focus on grows.

G: Right. What you seek you find. If you seek the best in the other person, you bring it out in them.

P: Then what else can we do?

G: The other thing we can do is listen. People like to talk. In a relationship, they are looking for a sounding board. They want an opportunity to say what they think, what they really mean. Often, expressing something is a way of finding out for ourselves, or clarifying, what we really think, what we really mean. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can offer to each other is to listen. Commit to paying attention without interrupting.

P: That’s tough to do!

G: Yes. It’s hard. I am definitely still a learner, not an expert.

To continue, we want to listen in a way that is not dismissive. Even if you say to me things that I don’t think are important, it is vital that I not give you the impression that, “Oh, this is stupid!” Also, I need to listen without trying to correct you or fix you. I want to you to feel safe in expressing yourself. I need to let you be you, to have your own views, your own journey.

Then, as you share ideas you have or problems or things you have done, when I do find something that is really of value, I can affirm you. But I need to resist the urge to correct you or to compete by turning attention to my own accomplishments, saying, “Well, I have done such and such,” and thereby making myself superior, outdoing you. Instead, I can say, “Wow, that was tough!” or “That was really kind,” or “How clever!” Or, ‘”That took guts.” As we encourage each other in our relationship, we help each other to see our own value. We are giving each other a gift the gift of understanding our individual worth.

P: These ways of relating are beautiful, but they seem ideal. What do you do about current relationships that are uncomfortable? How do you deal with difficult people?

G: Great questions. Perhaps these could be topics for our next conversation.

Your assignment this week is to take time to look at people in your life with new eyes. Don’t stop at their clothes or status. Look deeper. Notice their good qualities. Give respect. Ask for Help to see the unique gift they bring to life.

Food For Thought

“Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect.” U. Thant

“Respect a man, and he will do all the more.” John Wooden

Patricia G. Omoqui 2010, All Rights Reserved

Patricia Omoqui, The Thought Dr. â„¢, is an internationally recognized inspirational speaker, life coach and writer. Patricia’s mission in life is to inspire people to move beyond fear so they can reach their full potential.

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