To me, respect means boundaries. Both setting them for myself and acknowledging other people’s.
Respect means not overstepping into an area where I am making myself or anyone else feel uncomfortable and taking responsibility for it when I do.
It has taken me a very long time to learn the real value and true meaning of respect, and I still trip up on it at times. As a child, I was taught that respect was demanded of you by someone else, usually someone in an authoritative position and that I had no choice but to give it. Respect meant doing what I was told and not questioning it even if it made me uncomfortable, upset or went against what I felt comfortable within myself. I realize now that this is not how respect works. No one can demand to overstep your boundaries, nor should you expect to trample inside of someone else’s.
Sometimes, when I get very comfortable with someone the filter between my brain and mouth quietly slips away into the atmosphere, and the “verbal diarrhoea” ensues …
When this happens, and catches me off-guard, I usually find myself feeling extremely regretful afterwards. I start to worry if I crossed this person’s boundaries. I wonder about what that person thought of me, why did I say this or that? Will they tell someone else how much I said and everyone will laugh at me? Will there be a photo of me on the news later where I am labelled as NZ’s most disrespectful human, and they run a poll about it?
Of course not, this is silly, but my Monkey Brain (anxiety) likes to taunt me and keep me guessing.
Anyway, I digress, the point is, the more I work on myself, and the more I learn about myself, the more I understand that getting excited and vulnerable and communicating openly is a beautiful thing and not something to feel automatically embarrassed about. You CAN respectfully engage with people about all kinds of topics whilst remaining respectful of one another’s boundaries. Everyone has a different set of boundaries and the idea of respect. Therefore it is a moving target; you have to learn to read a face, slow down and take social cues as they present themselves.
I met a woman recently for the first time, and within an hour, we were sharing very personal details about one another, in total trust – what a wonderful experience. I left feeling more liberated than embarrassed and so happy that I had made a new friend with similar values and boundaries as me. Communication is an art form. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of listening and a lot less talking. That’s why we get two ears and one mouth. Stopping to think about what I am saying and how I am saying it has been very challenging for me. I am a highly sensitive person so when I have an emotional reaction to someone, whatever I think comes screaming out all over my face. Whether I say it or not. Some people have mastered the poker face. I am not one of them.
A wise woman (My Mum) taught me. “Think is it kind, is it necessary & is it true”? If not, don’t say it. I think this little mantra sums it up quite well.
When you mess it up, be quick to fix it up, we are all human, that’s all we can do.