“Hey Ollin, my biggest challenge right now is that my friends/family/etc. don’t respect my passion. What should I do about this?”
One of comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s most famous stand-up bits was the one in which he would begin his monologue by telling the audience “I get no respect.” After he would say this line, he would proceed to prove this by sharing a story in which he was clearly not respected by others.
This story of disrespect, instead of making the audience feel sad for him, would make the audience laugh out loud.
Why was that?
The audience would laugh at Dangerfield because his joke would hit a chord with them: Dangerfield was able to touch upon a real, raw aspect of the human experience.
You see, each and every one of us, no matter our background, has had a moment in which we have felt disrespected by others. Many of us have experienced first-hand the absurd and shocking ways in which other people disrespect us. Sometimes these acts of disrespect are so absurd and shocking that they make us wanna laugh at the irony of it all.
This is why Dangerfield was a comedic genius: he knew that no human being ever escaped being disrespected, and so he knew that no matter who his audience was, his “no respect” jokes would land every time. Even if the audience had not gone through the exact same experience as Dangerfield did, they would still laugh at his jokes because they knew what it felt like to be disrespected.
Why We Disrespect Each Other
Some people disrespect us because they want to be mean. For some reason or another, they don’t like us and so they’d rather demonstrate this distaste for us by doing something that they think will rile us up: like disrespecting us.
When you encounter this type of person, then it is best to simply leave them. This individual is clearly poisonous and is only going to do you harm.
However, there are times when people disrespect us unintentionally. This type of disrespect is often the result of a misunderstanding or a miscommunication.
We do not like to admit this but, often times, we do not know how to properly treat each other. (This is especially true in a world in which regions, cultures, generations, and traditions are all clashing and intermingling–often at a rapid pace and at a global scale.) What complicates things even further is modern technology, which often makes it hard for all of us to ascertain people’s true intentions.
Sometimes, what one perceives as a compliment, another perceives as an insult. What one perceives as a term of endearment, another perceives as an offense. What one perceives as an act of generosity, another perceives as an act of condescension.
So, how are we to know how to respect each another unless we show each other how to respect each other?
When All You Want Is Just A Little Respect
As I write about respect, I’m reminded of Aretha Franklin’s famous song, Respect, a song which is basically an exercise in what I’m trying to teach you here.
If you actually read the lyrics of that famous song, you realize that the song is simply about Franklin asking her new lover to respect her. In the song, she is telling this man why she should be respected and how she should be respected.
Aretha says that she plans on giving her new lover all of her “money.” Which means she plans on supporting the both of them. This statement of hers illustrates why she should be respected by her lover: she is supporting him. She also implies that she is not going to cheat on him (“I ain’t gonna do you wrong”) and implies that she expects him to do the same for her. Being committed to the relationship is how he will show her respect.
Then Aretha tells him: “find out what [respect] means to me.” She makes it clear that her lover needs to make an effort to understand her point of view, otherwise the relationship isn’t going to work out.
Finally, near the end of the song, Aretha explains what will happen to her lover if he doesn’t show her the respect she deserves: she is going to leave him.
How To Get Respect You Deserve
Okay, now that we’ve reviewed Aretha’s song, we can see The Diva has given us some clear guidelines on how we can avoid misunderstanding and miscommunication when it comes to showing people how to respect us.
So, why don’t we put the lessons we learned from both Aretha Franklin and Rodney Dangerfield together in one nice list of “respect” guidelines:
1. We must understand that there will be plenty of people who are going to disrespect us.
But just because people will disrespect us, it doesn’t mean that this is a good enough reason to stop pursuing our passion. (It is good to note that Dangerfield’s success didn’t come until much later in his life. This shows us that Dangerfield kept going, despite never getting any respect from anyone.)
2. We can laugh it off and then turn the negative into a positive.
Dangerfield took the experience of being constantly disrespected and turned it into one of the most popular bits in comedy history. He took a negative and turned it into a positive–and then he laughed it off all the way to the bank.
3. Let people know why and how you should be respected
Have you made it clear to others why they should respect your passion? Have you made it clear to them how they should respect your passion? Do they know that they are disrespecting your passion in the first place? Have you brought this issue up with them? (I know that you may believe that the way to show you respect should always be obvious and clear to the other party but, unfortunately, sometimes it is not always clear. There are gender gaps, generation gaps, regional gaps, and cultural gaps that make it hard to know what constitutes respect and what constitutes disrespect given any type of situation. Do not automatically assume someone is disrespecting you out of meanness. They may just have a blind spot that you can help fix by expressing how and why you should be respected.)
4. Others need to put in some effort in order to understand your point of view. (Otherwise, the relationship is not going to work.)
In order to gain another person’s respect, the other person needs to be willing to put in some effort in order to understand why it’s so important that they respect your passion. If they are not willing to put in this effort, they may never be willing, and so this relationship might need to end.
5. Make it clear what the consequences will be should the other party fail to respect you.
Let the disrespecting person know that they must learn how to respect you, or you are going to end the relationship.
Here’s the way I look at it: your passion is fundamental to who you are, so if they do not respect your passion, then I cannot see how they can possibly respect you, too. Since you will be engaging in your passion for the rest of your life, your passion will consistently serve as a point of conflict and friction between you and this person and will cause a lot of drama. Unless you love constant drama in your lie, you might consider leaving this relationship.
Personally, I have never stayed in a relationship in which the other party did not respect me. If I thought the person disrespected me, but didn’t intend to, I would give the other party a second chance. I would explain to them why I thought I was being disrespected and I would tell the other party how I wanted them to show me respect. But if I saw that the other party didn’t change–even after I told them why and how they should respect me–then I would leave the relationship. I know, ending a relationship isn’t easy: it can be awfully painful. But if you want to make sure you are respected, you have to do it. Otherwise, you can be sure that as long as you stay in that relationship, you will never get the respect you deserve.