Then let me reply with something that is not my own words, and hopefully conveys the points better.
In a class on negotiations and the impact of power, two students in a mock group negotiation exercise willingly walked out of a profitable deal just so that a stronger member of the group could be taught a lesson and be left with nothing. When asked in the debriefing session as to the reason, the response that came was that the man in power was asserting his authority over the less powerful groups and constantly showed an arrogant attitude. The lack of respect given was enough for them to accept losses, provided that the student with power lost face in front of others.
Another group in the same class walked in with extremely different results. The outcome was more equally distributed. In this case, the person in power was asked for the reason. His reasoning was: â€˜I know I have power; but I donâ€™t need to show it. I have to build relationships with these other players, so it is important I treat them with respect. For it is these small relationships that will help me in the future.â€™
What is Respect?
Every human being and nation, irrespective of their power or strength, has the right to be respected. â€œRespect is an unassuming resounding force, the stuff that equity and justice are made of.â€ It means being treated with consideration and esteem and to be willing to treat people similarly.. It means to have a regard for other peoplesâ€™ feelings, listening to people and hearing them, i.e. giving them oneâ€™s full attention. Even more importantly, respect means treating one with dignity. Respect is the opposite of humiliation and contempt. So where the latter can be a cause of conflict, the former and its opposite can help transform it. As William Ury writes in his book The Third Side: â€œHuman beings have a host of emotional needs- for love and recognition, for belonging and identity, for purpose and meaning to lives. If all these needs had to be subsumed in one word, it might be respectâ€.
Importance of Respect in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation
Respect is the first positive step in building a relationship and relationships are central to conflict transformation. One does not have to like a person or understand his viewpoint to accord him respect. Respect comes with the belief that a person or culture can have beliefs contradictory to ours and we should still honor them, as basic respect is a fundamental right of all human beings. In addition, goals and concessions become easier to attain when the element of respect is present As Bill Richardson, the US permanent representative to the UN put it. â€œYou have to be a human being. You cannot be arrogant..... If you treat each individual with respect, each nation with dignity, you can get a lot further than trying to muscle themâ€
A case example is that of John Kamm, the founder of Dui Hua Foundation. Kamm has been successful in persuading the Chinese government to release political prisoners, when many others have failed. He has found that approaching the Chinese â€œwith dignity and respect facilitated their response to his inquiries and uncovered a wealth of information regarding the status and well being of thousands of political prisoners.â€
Peacebuilding and conflict transformation strongly emphasize the human relationship aspect. Therefore, for peacebuilding to succeed, the element of respect is essential.
Respect plays an important role in a number of ways.
1. Respect allows one to build trust with â€œthe other.â€
2. Respect allows one to build and rebuild relationships.
3. It provides one with â€œan entry,â€ into the other side
4. Those who are respected within the community are most likely to be able to bring or encourage peace.
5. In addition, according respect can make the key difference in the direction of the conflict.
6. Its presence can lead to a positive change, whilst its absence may lead to even more destruction.
The presence of respect can therefore create opportunities. It is then up to the peace builder to act upon them.
Thus, for a peacebuilder, it is important to look at respect from different angles. First is the importance of treating parties to a conflict with civility and honor. Once people are accorded respect, they are more willing to make compromises which are long term and sustainable, rather than those that are made under duress. Second, peacebuilders and â€œoutsider neutralâ€ mediators need to look for links within the conflicted society and community that have the respect of the people, such as professors, elders, religious leaders etc.Through these people, the mediators and peacebuilders can build networks and contacts. And through their help, peacebuilders and mediators can begin to build rapport with the conflicting parties.
What Happens in the Absence of Respect?
Contempt and humiliation are the absence of respect, as are a sense of being unheard or not understood. The absence of respect or a perceived lack of respect often leads to conflict at an individual, family and societal level. Since the first key step to building strong relationships is respect, the absence of respect or the breakdown of respect are also key factors in the breakdown of relationships and in the occurrence of conflict. Relationships and contacts that are built without the presence of respect are seldom long term or sustainable.
Respect is created in many ways.
1. It is created when people treat others as they want to be treated. This brings us to the famous quotation from the Bible. â€œDo unto others as you would others do unto youâ€. This also brings the element of circularity to it. That is, things are connected and in relationship. So the growth of something, such as respect, often nourishes itself from its own process and dynamics. Be the first to accord respect, and with time, it will develop amongst all the conflicting parties.
2. Avoid insulting people or their culture; instead try to understand them. Many disastrous interactions are characterized by attitudes such as arrogance, disdain, fear of difference, etc. To avoid this, it helps to contact people who are familiar with the unfamiliar culture and can give the peacebuilder guidelines of how to best adapt to the culture.
3. Be courteous. Listen to what others have to say. Treat people fairly. All the basic elements â€œthat we learned in Kindergartenâ€ will go a long way to creating an atmosphere of trust and respect.
4. Apart from the above, when already involved in a conflict, â€˜separating the people from the problemâ€™ also allows one to treat the other side with honor. Recognizing that the issue is the problem at hand and not the people can also help create respect.
Thus the presence of respect can help transform conflicts, by providing opportunities that did not exist before. At the same time, the absence of respect can lead to conflict. What makes men like Bill Richardson and John Kamm succeed in negotiations and dialogue where many other fail, especially in their dealings with cultures other than our own? What makes them different from others? Both cite respect to be their main secret. Recognize respect to be a basic human right, treat individuals and states with dignity, and you will receive a more sustainable response. The relationships so established will be based on mutual trust and respect, and hence is likely to last. In contrast, if you browbeat your enemies (or both sides if you are the mediator) then even though the goal may be attained, the relationship will be resentful, and backlash, more than stable peace is the more likely outcome.
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