Don’t demand respect — command it!

Giving respect without feeling it inside is pretentious. Insisting on such respect is false pride

Illustration: giving respect

“Respect is for those who deserve, not for those who demand it.”
Paulo Coelho

Respect is a funny concept. All around us, we see people demanding as well as giving respect for all the wrong reasons:

— In your family, you are expected to respect your elders whether or not they deserve it; in many cultures, you need to respect your husband just because he is a man and you’re his wife, even if he always treats you poorly and doesn’t respect you at all.

— At school/college, you are expected to respect your teachers, doesn’t matter if they can’t teach their subject well.

— At work, you are required to respect your seniors, regardless of how competent they are.

Then there are people who demand respect because they are rich, powerful, famous, strong, attractive, talented, work in law enforcement or just because they belong to a certain race, religion, caste etc.

Why do people demand respect?

I often wonder why people demand respect. Shouldn’t respect be earned? If someone respects us only because we are in a position to demand it, isn’t such respect fake? If you ask me, I would like to be respected only for my abilities and qualities, not because my position demands it.

What perturbs me is that so many people are comfortable with fake respect. For example, I see so many subordinates who show respect to their superiors, whether or not they feel it inside. Usually they do so because they want to be politically correct. After all, they can’t afford to upset their boss!

Showing versus feeling respect

Showing respect is different from feeling respect. The former is a conceited attempt, used, or perhaps misused, for political or selfish gains. The latter is a naturally occurring phenomenon, inspired by legitimate appreciation of the other’s talent, quality or attitude.

Genuine respect is felt inside. It is earned by living a life that inspires and motivates. It is objective and unbiased. But, it is not demanded. Yet, we find our elders, seniors, and superiors insisting that we respect them?

The truth is that respect has nothing to do with age and seniority. In fact, it is possible that we may respect many people who are younger than us, have lesser experience, or are lower in social status.

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”
Albert Einstein

I respect many of my subordinates, not because they demand—they can’t!—but, because they command it through their work, their behaviour, and their attitude. On the other hand, I don’t feel respect for many who are in positions of authority—because I find that they assert themselves needlessly, frequently to display their “power” and feel in control.

Respect and authority

Sometimes, people curb their expression of respect, again for the wrong reasons. Bosses don’t “show” their respect to their subordinates, fathers to their sons, teachers to their students, and husbands to their wives, because they feel that doing so would lessen their authority. But respect feeds on respect. When we show genuine respect, the other respects us for our honesty and confidence.

Yes, showing genuine respect to others implies that we are confident of ourselves to feel secure and therefore we can let the others know that we respect them. This brings us to self-respect.

Why self-respect is vital

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”

Commanding our own respect is most important. Self-respect is a necessary condition to give and receive respect. We can’t give to others what we don’t have for ourselves. And we can’t expect others to respect us if we don’t respect ourselves. So don’t forget to honour yourself; count your strengths and learn to respect yourself.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


  1. I have been married 22 years. My mother in law has always had a sense of entitlemeant, and expected a higher respect because she is my husbands mother. She has disrespected me terribly over the years, and even been down right cruel. She always calls me honey instead of by my name. I have tried to talk to her about it, and she feaks out and turns the family against me. My husband has done nothing. He says he is protecting himself. I decided she is not healthy for me, and now i just stay away. I wish we could resolve things, but she refuses to talk about it.

  2. I too feel respect is earned. I was married to a man who says he demands respect from the kids. Well my kids did show respect out of fear. But as they got older they still respected but they could point blank tell you they had no respect for him at all.

  3. Jaijairam

    i read the article of happiness and respect too
    i wanna know if you have problems in life and no one is around you to help you are tensed so how you will feel happy,
    My story is i lost my father 14th oct after that no one is in my family to support me not in financial terms but emotional support also m married my inlaws are the same i cant except any help from them i wanna move a head in life m doing my mba part time working in bpo night shift my age is 29 where to move now which job i should do to earn my bread and butter s m not happy with my current job.

    There is no one to help me to guide me in my carreer m not able to find the way.

    i m also intrested in doing seva i do little bit time what i get from my job and college m staying in mumbai i wanna to hear the management lecture which is schedule on 27th feb its kept on friday so i wont be able to come down at pune s there any way to get me the message or talk of dadaji.

    i also want to be volunter in your programmes or seva pls guide me how can i join you.

    Pls do reply for all above

  4. Well written , Manoj!
    To echo Shakespeare,
    ‘The Quality of Respect is not strained.It dropeth as a gentle rain from Heaven
    it is twice blessed, it blesseth him that gives and him that takes’……..
    Yes in the process both the giver and the taker of respect are equally blessed but the giver should not expect return always.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Manoj. I have often wondered why we should have to touch an elder’s feet, simply because she happens to be older, even if I don’t feel any respect for her. Another aspect is that, initialy we may respect a person simply because of her position of authority or age, but the person’s actions and words are the factors which decide whether that respect is sustained or not.

  6. Dear Manoj, A friend forwarded me the article feed link today, hence a late feedback. I loved reading your article. I think that self respect comes from self acceptance. Often times in life when we expect too much from ourselves and feel disappointed in our own imperfection it is not easy to maintain self esteem and in turn self respect. We are our own biggest critics whether we realize it or not. A major turning point comes in our lives when we start to accept ourselves regardless of our shortcomings, our mistakes and imperfection. Of course it takes both courage and kindness to reach that point. That’s when we can feel confident and secure and self respect follows.


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