respect vs politeness - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 12-29-2003, 10:32 PM - Thread Starter
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We use the word respect around here a lot. We talk about being respectful and respecting those who are different from us.

But sometimes I think people are using the word respect when they mean politeness.
And I don't think they are the same thing.
You can be totally disrespectful using polite language, kwim?
Does anyone else get what I am saying?

To me, respect is about not demonizing people who are different than you. It is about speaking of ideas, or facts, or opinions, without setting up straw men (or women) or putting others down.

To me it is not respectful if you are doing those things, but just doing them in a nice, polite way. You can use polite language and not make obvious personal attacks, but still be totally disrespectful.

And by the way, I am NOT saying I am not guilty of this myself at times. I know I am. I just wonder if anyone else feels this way.
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#2 of 12 Old 12-29-2003, 10:49 PM
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There is definitely a difference between the two, but I've always looked at it from the other angle. I guess you are right in that you can be polite, but it might still come off as disrespectful. I've been on boards where it seems like we can disagree and have a conversation about it, but so often tempers flare and people don't respect the other person.

I was reading and sometimes posting on a breast vs. bottle board once, and there was always a lot of downright rudeness. I was a breastfeeding advocate, but some of them were rather rude, I thought. One basically said no decent mom would use a diaper bag that had cartoon characters on it. It was hard to be on that board because there was so little respect, even among those with whom I was in agreement about breastfeeding.

At one point a mom said that we had to "respect her choice" to formula feed. No, we don't have to respect it. We understand that she has the right to make that choice, but in the sense of respecting as considering something worthy, no, I don't have to do that. I wasn't disrespectful to people, though, and I imagine she was feeling upset because others were so disrespectful in the name of debate.

I've been trying to put more of the principles of non-violent communication into practice before I respond to things that make me angry. I guess I should read the book.
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#3 of 12 Old 12-29-2003, 10:56 PM
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Asherah, I must, both respectfully and politely I hope, disagree with your premise. I occasionally find people's posts here both impolite and disrespectful and I want to be able to respond to them politely but not respectfully. I don't like to be rude when I do this, but there are some ideas I do not respect. I think the "polite but not respectful" combination is sometimes called "snarky."

I try not to use the straw person technique, but to respond very directly to what I read. I completely agree with you that demonizing different perspectives is a big problem.

Mainly I try to be both respectful and polite, here, because it facilitates the generally pleasant and supportive tone of the conversations here. I value having a space where supportive discussion is a norm.

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#4 of 12 Old 12-29-2003, 11:04 PM
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Interesting topic, Asherah. Thanks for starting it.

I think it is quite possible to be polite and disrespectful at the same time.

However, I can't imagine how one could possibly be respectful and impolite at the same time. I can't think of one good example. We're battling this exact idea with ds these days -- he admits respect is important, but insists that "manners" are silly. I'm having a hard time explaining why using poor manners and treating people impolitely *is* disrespectful, but I do think it is.
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#5 of 12 Old 12-29-2003, 11:26 PM
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Respect means having the maturity to sometimes say nothing at all when the words are jumping out of your mouth. Respect is taking a step back to breathe and think twice about the effect your words will have on those receiving them. Respect is being a good listener, even if you don't like what you hear. .....and to not take a different opinion personally..cuz if we were all the same what fun would the world be???
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#6 of 12 Old 12-31-2003, 04:46 AM
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Okay.. my two centavos: Respect is internal. It is how you genuinely feel. So, as someone above mentioned I may be hard pressed to truly respect a choice to formula feed (simply as an example... forgive me...) but I can still be polite about it. I can also respect something but still be impolite (or rude) about it. So one is internal and the other is behavioral and they can either exist without the other but they are often associated with each other. Politeness is generally seen as a sign of respect.
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#7 of 12 Old 12-31-2003, 10:04 AM
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I agree with you, OP. I’m not really thinking about this in terms of the interactions on this board but I think of it often when I’m dealing with teaching my daughter “politeness” and “respect”, which I think are very different things. I think I can teach my daughter to be “polite”, by modeling manners, social norms and etc.

That said, I don’t think these things have much to do with respect in the way I mean the word. Respect to me seems universal while politeness seems highly cultural and superficial.

I am polite to most people (within my cultral perspective but that does not always imply respect. That goes the same for my daughter. I don’t thing that if she says thank you she necessarily respects (or is thankful) for whatever she is referring to, kwim? I remember this issue on the threads about salutations like Mr., Mrs, and etc.

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#8 of 12 Old 12-31-2003, 11:13 AM
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Agreed strongly: You can be polite and disrespectful, but it is not possible to be respectful and impolite.

Have been snarky here (I :heart that word ... so evocative ...) and have been the recipient of some intense snarkiness. Truth be told, snarky comments directed my way tend to make me madder than outright&blunt hostility. And they tend to get me in trouble in the end, too ...

Snark will get you snark. One of the rules in life.
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#9 of 12 Old 12-31-2003, 11:16 AM
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I agree that they are two different things.

Being polite is is a constant. Whether I *respect* someone else (respect can be lost) politeness not only reflects the value of the other person but something within my own character.

Respect is another matter. Respect is my attitude toward another person based upon my view of who they are. This can be lost when someone behaves in a manner that does not deserve my respect.

I should, however, continue to be polite regardless of the other's character because my politeness is a reflection of who I am (Note: I am not always polite but it is my goal )

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#10 of 12 Old 12-31-2003, 11:28 AM
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I always try for politeness - whether or not I respect the position or the person. I have seen some threads (and participated in others) where both have been thrown out the window. IRL and here I find that politeness goes a long way to getting what you want (or getting heard). Plus I ive in small town where everyine knows each other and I think in many ways its harder to get away with being rude unlike a large city.
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#11 of 12 Old 12-31-2003, 11:51 AM
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I think there are two levels of respect to consider here too.

Using the FF example: I don't have to respect the Choice to FF, but I do have to respect that it is someone's right to make that choice.

Either way, being polite about it while discussing it keeps more people reading than rudeness IMO, ala the "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." concept.

Keeping one's thoughts to oneself falls into the catagory of Politeness to me. And by being so polite one may then find out that that FF didn't have a Choice, and thus...remembering another thread here

"What will you do once you know?"
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#12 of 12 Old 12-31-2003, 01:32 PM
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r.v. re·spect·ed, re·spect·ing, re·spects

1. To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.
2. To avoid violation of or interference with: respect the speed limit.
3. To relate or refer to; concern.

# A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem. See Synonyms at 'regard'.
# The state of being regarded with honor or esteem.
# Willingness to show consideration or appreciation.
# respects Polite expressions of consideration or deference: pay one's respects.
# A particular aspect, feature, or detail: In many respects this is an important decision.
I think it's notable that the word deference is mentioned twice above. That give some idea about the tone of the word.

adj. po·lit·er, po·lit·est

Synonyms: polite, mannerly, civil, courteous, genteel These adjectives mean mindful of, conforming to, or marked by good manners. Polite and mannerly imply consideration for others and the adherence to conventional social standards of good behavior: “It costs nothing to be polite” (Winston S. Churchill). The child was scolded by his grandmother for not being more mannerly. Civil suggests only the barest observance of accepted social usages; it often means merely neither polite nor rude: If you can't be friendly, at least be civil. Courteous implies courtliness and dignity: “If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world” (Francis Bacon). Genteel, which originally meant well-bred, now usually suggests excessive and affected refinement: “A man, indeed, is not genteel when he gets drunk” (James Boswell).
I love words.

I know that I respect my mother most of the time (not all of the time) but I interact with her politely all of the time.

I'm trying to teach my kids to treat everyone politely. Like others said, I want them (and me) to essentially be polite persons, seperate and apart from other persons actions. Treating others with respect, well maybe that's like treating the teacher with assumed, unearned regard from the first day of school. My child doesn't know if this person is worthy of her respect, but is going to treat her a little differently from all her friends, regardless.


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