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This I Believe

Webster’s New World Dictionary provides more than one definition for RESPECT: as a transitive verb – to feel or show honor or esteem for, to show consideration for – noun wise, respect might mean honor or esteem, consideration or regard. It can also adverb to: respectfully as a valediction.

However, I believe in RESPECT on a grander scale.

I am willing to respect you simply because you have a right to be here, same as the trees and the stars. I strive to practice respect as an attitude and personal philosophy; recognizing your unalienable right to be here. We are all part of the same universe.

I am willing to respect you even though I might not admire or look up to you for the accomplishments you are credited with. All you gotta do is show up and I can respect you. I like the synonym “recognition” which is regard for the feelings, wishes, and rights of others. To not recognize a person is to deny their existence.

As a district court mediator part of my work is to show respect for the parties to the conflict. Does not matter who they are or how they are dressed or who they might look like they deserve my respect for being present. Mediation is about engaging with inquiry and useful purpose. One of the few ground rules in mediation is to not interrupt the other party’s description of the relationship. Listening without rebuttal in mind or interruption allows for some acceptance of the other party’s experience. Each party gets to tell their story as they believe it to be.

Facilitated mediation aims for the parties to participate in forming their own agreement with assistance from the mediator who asks questions to clarify positions, summarizes and explores options. Mutual agreement depends on respect which is key to sharing and accepting information from the other party. Civility or politeness provide space for listening and understanding rather than squabbling about past events that impede progress toward collaboration. Most district court mediations take about 60 minutes, more or less. In my experience, agreement is reached 80% of the time. The other cases are decided in district court by the judge.

The respect I believe in or the lack of it shows up in people’s interactions. Such as when the borrowed lawn mower is returned late and clogged with grass, when people toss their vehicle trash out the window, or fail to give way at the STOP sign.  Ignoring  your neighbor’s right to peaceful enjoyment and not accepting his religious practice and the flag he honors are more personal examples of the need for respect.

It seems to me that respect is basic to all positive interactions. Without respect we can fall back towards selfishness and greed.

I believe in respect because it can be a guiding principal for harmonious living. The Ten Commandments deal with respect for others and are easily understood by most people and their neighbors. Some effort is required.

If you got RESPECT you clean up your own mess!


Eric Anderson

Eric F Anderson is a lead mediator at the Center for Mediation and Collaboration Rhode Island. MORE >

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