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Getting Respect From Others

Getting Respect from others is something everybody strives for.  We want to be respected for what we bring to the table. Or we at least want to be treated with respect and courtesy.  You have to give in order to receive, but what do you do if you don’t get respect in return.

People Engage in Behavior that Works

In my Grand Rapids counseling practice, I work with people who are frustrated with not being treated with respect.  This could be a mother being disrespected by their teenage son, a husband who is being treated poorly by his wife, or someone who is being steamrolled by a boss or coworker.

One of the things we do is start with learning how to say “No” effectively and mean it.  This may mean strengthening your self-esteem and practicing specific ways to say “no” to people that fit your personality.  It often means learning how to effectively establish boundaries with people.  

Why People Treat You with Disrespect

For the most part, we all perform behaviors repeatedly because those behaviors work for us.  When our behaviors get us something we want, we will repeat the behavior.  In fact, it would be silly not to repeat a behavior that works for us.  So, if I have learned that taking advantage of your kindness gets you to do something for me, I will keep doing it.  It is only when that doesn’t work that I will do something else.  

Let’s say your teenage son learns he can ignore your threats to punish him for being disrespectful because nothing actually happens. He still gets to do the thing he wanted with no consequences.  He will continue to get comfortable doing this and do it more often.  So, create a reasonable negative consequence for this behavior that you apply consistently. He will learn that his behavior no longer gets him what he wants and will learn to adapt his behavior.

Here’s another example, let’s say your significant other belittles you when you are with friends.  They may be getting laughs from others or feel superior while doing this. But this only works if you stay around to be belittled.  If you end the conversation or leave when they start belittling you, they learn that if they want you to stick around they have to at least not treat you with disrespect.  For example,  I sometimes advise my adult clients to politely but firmly end conversations with their parent when they start being negative.  When they do this consistently, how quickly the parent learns to be more respectful in how they speak.

Taking Away the Benefits of Disrespect

If you are dealing with someone who treats you with disrespect, think about what gains their behavior gets them. See if you can change the outcome so that the disrespect does not work for them anymore.  However, be aware not to be disrespectful yourself or they may benefit from pointing out how rude you are being.  

If you’d like help getting others to treat you with respect, contact me to discuss how Solution Focused Therapy can help.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, counseling for teenagers, and adults.  He provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, and relationship problems.  For more information, please visit the website at