Respect: The Foundation for Collaboration and Social Unity

Respect is something we all deserve and expect when contributing our thoughts, ideas, and work to a collaborative group effort. When that contribution does not feel valued, we start to feel disrespected and may withdraw from social interaction. Download self-care app LIFE Intelligence and start your journey on building respect and a sense of confidence in yourself by learning how to address situations of disrespect.

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The Role of Respect in Team Settings

Respect toward others and ourselves is something we are taught from an early age. Children are told to share their toys, not shout in an argument, and say please/thank you, especially when speaking to adults. All of these actions are signs of respect, a reciprocal act that stands as a key component of the interactional level of social competence by recognizing the dignity, or value, of every person (Audley et al., 2020; Goldson, 2018). Social competence is the ability to achieve personal goals while maintaining positive relationships in our social interactions (Audley et al., 2020). Respect is a vital component of maintaining those relationships of how well children are taught to show respect can influence the level of social competence they have later on (Audley et al., 2020). Another component of respect is the pathways upon which it operates: inclusion, the positive perception of group interaction, and status, a desire to achieve higher status (Blincoe & Harris, 2011). Achieving higher status is achieved through the perceptions of other people (Blincoe & Harris, 2011); respect is earned through hard work and your commitment to the group effort.


Contractualism provides a similar definition for respect: “mutual respect means a relationship between individuals who mutually recognize one another as reason-assessing beings capable of seeking justification” (Wong, 2020). This mutual relationship is similar to the positive relationship we maintain through social competence, and recognizing that others are reasonable (smart, relational, etc.) recognizes their human dignity.

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Teamwork: Respecting Every Effort

Teams are essential for solving complex problems because every member brings in their own area of expertise and the level of respect each team member has for their role affects the success of this teamwork (Nikolakaki et al., 2020). Maintaining positive, respectful relationships with others in these team settings promotes social unity, a vital component for a productive society, capable of advancing (Wong, 2020). Fairness and mutual respect are key components of deliberation (Maurissen et al., 2020), a skill we use nearly every day to discuss different opinions and problem-solve. When students are taught deliberation in school, in situations such as debates or classroom discussions, they learn to be more tolerant and respectful of diversity (Maurissen et al., 2020). This is incredibly important; we have an incredibly diverse population and in the workplace, we have to work with people from all different backgrounds. In fact, being respected is one of the top values people look for when starting a job, even higher up than salary or job security (Clarke et al., 2019)!


Working together and creating a team based on mutual respect is vital for productivity; when students’ feel that they can achieve change by working together, they are more willing to express their concerns/opinions (Maurissen et al., 2020). In contrast, if people are disrespected and do not feel that the team effort is valuable, their level of self-respect may be damaged, causing them to withdraw from social interactions (Clarke et al., 2019; Maurissen et al. 2020).

Respectfully Agree to Disagree

How do you address a situation when you feel disrespected? Considering the importance of communication in any relationship, try first going to the person who disrespected you and talk about the problem. Using an ethic of care, talk about how you feel and ask what you can do to improve the situation/relationship. This ethic of care addresses problems with the goal of maintaining personal relationships by taking the concern of everyone into consideration (Ross & Parks, 2018). Sometimes listening is the best solution, especially if this person did not intentionally disrespect you, because it allows them to have a voice and gives you a better understanding of any problems they may have from their perspective.


Listening also gives both parties the chance to hear each other’s opinions and move forward to rationally, but respectfully, disagree. As long as neither person is critical or tries to put you down for your opinion, it is more than okay to disagree! This is one of the components of deliberation and is sometimes necessary when making decisions about complex problems. Once your problem is heard, there may be the chance of a shift in power dynamics, such as a student researcher being given more responsibilities from their professor. A shift in power dynamics comes from growth in mutual respect and confidence in the abilities of your team members (Ross & Parks, 2018), especially if you are working with someone of higher status.


Some people, unfortunately, are just generally disrespectful or overly prideful and in this case, no matter how much work you put in, they may still treat you in a negative way. If the problem persists and you continue to feel undervalued, speak with a supervisor or an authority figure to sort out the problem. Seeking validation from these people of higher status may also help boost your confidence and level of self-respect! You also always have the choice to move on to another group where you and work will be valued and your opinion will have an equal place in the deliberation.

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Learn How to Disagree Respectfully with LIFE Intelligence

When you feel disrespected, remember to take some time to calm down and think about all aspects of the situation before confronting the person who disrespected you. LIFE Intelligence can give you the tools you need to refocus after stressful events, such as feelings disrespected, and address the situation calmly. Remember that your opinion is valuable and deserves respectful consideration when collaborating with other people; agreeing to disagree is sometimes the best way to respectfully resolve a disagreement or conflict of ideas.



Chiara Nicholas
August 2, 2021

Audley, S., Hsueh, Y., & Zhang, H. (2020). I’m respectful. Why don’t they like me? Evaluator and gender effects of showing respect and children’s social competence. Social Development, 29(1), 249–272. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12389

Blincoe, S., & Harris, M. J. (2011). Status and inclusion, anger and sadness: Gendered responses to disrespect. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41(4), 508–517. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.811

Clarke, N., Alshenalfi, N., & Garavan, T. (2019). Upward influence tactics and their effects on job performance ratings and flexible working arrangements: The mediating roles of mutual recognition respect and mutual appraisal respect. Human Resource Management, 58(4), 397–416. https://doi.org/10.1002/hrm.21967

Goldson, D. (2018). Showing respect in school: what does it mean? Reflective Practice, 19(5), 586–598. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2018.1538948

Maurissen, L., Barber, C., & Claes, E. (2020). Classroom discussions and political tolerance towards immigrants: the importance of mutual respect and responsiveness. Acta Politica: International Journal of Political Science, 55(2), 242. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41269-018-0114-0

Nikolakaki, S.M., Pitoura, E., Terzi, E., & Tsaparas, P. (2020). Finding Teams of Maximum Mutual Respect. 2020 IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM), 1202-1207. https://doi.org/10.1109/ICDM50108.2020.00149

Ross, D. G., & Parks, M. (2018). Mutual Respect in an Ethic of Care: A Collaborative Essay on Power, Trust, and Stereotyping. Teaching Ethics, 18(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.5840/tej2018112156

Wong, B. (2020). Why Should I Respect You? A Critique and a Suggestion for the Justification of Mutual Respect in Contractualism. Philosophical Forum, 51(3), 261–278. https://doi.org/10.1111/phil.12265

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