55. Relating to Others
Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Eleanor Roosevelt (American politician and activist)
In this area we will consider respect and acceptance, as well as comparing ourselves with others, which is implicated in symmetrical and asymmetrical ways of relating to others.
Respect simply means treating people as subjects, not objects. This implies respecting their existence as well as their agency (freedom to make choices). We sometimes treat people as objects in order to fulfil our desires or gain a sense of control. This, however, leads to disconnectedness that induces a sense of isolation, even when with others. As already discussed in relation to self-respect, respect doesn’t need to be earned as it is derived from our intrinsic value of being human. So, there is no excuse to treat anybody disrespectfully (even prisoners are supposed to be treated with some respect). Besides, we are more likely to be treated with respect if we treat others with respect.
Acceptance and tolerance are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Tolerance implies putting up with others, suggesting that they are an inconvenience to be endured. True acceptance is more than that: it primarily means accepting that people can be different. It also involves an attempt to understand others, rather than honing in on their perceived faults. Even if they have some shortcomings you don’t have to be troubled by them. This is not to say that we should put up with everything. Bringing up what bothers you is easier though if the other is first accepted as a person; in fact, accepting others as they are and trying to understand their motives can be the first step in eliciting a positive change. In addition, acceptance can be enriching as it involves opening up to something different, and it makes being accepted more likely (while rejection, of course, has the opposite effect).