British Values – Mutual Respect

British Values – Mutual Respect Share

We’re looking at another of the core British values this week – mutual respect. While on the surface this may seem like an obvious one, and something we all do every day, here we take a look at what the words really mean, on paper and in practice.

The word ‘respect’ comes from two Latin words: ‘re’ meaning ‘back’ and ‘specere’, meaning ‘to look’. So while the literal meaning might be to look back (think ‘retrospect’), the evolution in meaning has developed into a fuller consideration of something (or someone) we look at, to consider it again and so form a fuller and more rounded perspective of it, to value it a little more.

The word mutual can also be derived from the Latin word ‘mutuus’ – meaning reciprocal, done in exchange. Mutual respect, therefore, means both parties reconsidering or re-viewing their initial look at each other.

Mutual respect in practice

We see mutual respect in practice all the time, but might not recognise it for what it is. Sport is a very good example. At the beginning of most team sport matches you’ll see all the players line up and shake hands with one another, to acknowledge their equal standing as competitors, despite their opposing goals. In the theatre, you’ll see the whole company take bows together at the end of the show, often acknowledging the technical team and musicians to show respect for everyone’s hard work in the production.

Yet you don’t have to be of the same status of someone in order to show them mutual respect. Indeed, revisiting our two examples – the sports players will also shake the hands of their match umpires or referees despite their superiority to them; while audiences and performers respect each other during a show, despite their differing roles and perspectives. A salesperson and a buyer will respect each other in order to complete a transaction, and the driver or pilot of a vehicle will respect their passengers, who will return the respect for getting them to where they want to go safely.

Challenges for mutual respect

As we’ve seen, society’s ability to demonstrate mutual respect is clear in many every day circumstances, so much so that we often don’t think about it. But there are situations where showing mutual respect can be challenging for some people. Often these challenging times are related to beliefs surrounding politics, race, culture, sexuality, disability, age, gender religion, class, or other strongly-held values. Yet a core British Value is seeing past those things – re-looking at them – and still being able to respect each other in spite of our differences.

What’s most heartening in our society is stories of where people put aside their prejudices and differences to come together in support of a bigger issue. In the news recently you may have read about worshippers from differing religions keeping watch for each other while they pray in their respective houses of worship; heterosexual people standing up for the rights of their LGBTQ friends and family members; or celebrities rallying around actors being shamed for working other jobs. Even just being able to explain to someone that you disagree with their point of view but that you acknowledge their right to express their opinion goes a long way to establishing a mutually respectful society.

Later this month we’ll take a closer look at what mutual respect can look like in the work place, and how to address issues where respect may be lacking on one or more sides.