If you're a fan of classic soul music, the word “respect" might automatically bring to mind Aretha Franklin belting out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T…find out what it means to me!" But what exactly is respect? How can you show it? And how do you earn it?

Respect often means different things to different people. There are several aspects that many people can agree on, though. For example, at its most basic level, respect means being kind and considerate to others.

Respect can take many forms. Don't make fun of others. Put yourself in other people's shoes and think about how they feel. Observe the Golden Rule: treat others the same way you'd want to be treated.

Respect is important because it sets the proper stage for all our human interactions. Friendship, love, and even basic effective communication must all start with respect.

Everyone wants to be respected. To earn and deserve respect, though, you must also show respect to others. It's always a two-way street. You can't be disrespectful to others and expect respect in return.

It's easy to show respect. Be polite. Look for the best in people rather than concentrating on their faults. Show compassion to others and seek to put their interests before your own. Make others comfortable when they're uneasy. Help out whenever you can. When you pay it forward, amazing things can happen.

And be respectful to everyone. The world is an unbelievably huge place filled with billions of people, each one of which is unique and special. And they all deserve your respect!

Be warned, though. Not everyone will show you respect all the time. In fact, you'll probably see examples of disrespectful behavior each and every day. How you respond to disrespectful behavior, though, can make a huge difference.

If you choose to respond to disrespectful behavior by acting disrespectfully yourself, you've gained nothing. You've only continued the pattern of disrespectful behavior and set a bad example. Instead, act respectfully and set a good example. Consistently acting respectfully might just help others learn from your example!

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