Respect and What It Means

by Marla Miniano   |  Jul 17, 2010
illustration by Janine Ngo
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You’re baffled. You perceive yourself as a more or less polite person. You cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, you say pardon and excuse me, you use po and opo when talking to your elders. But in some ways, you feel like you’re not getting enough respect. What could you be doing wrong?

With your teachers

What you’re doing: You call your teachers Ma’am and Sir when speaking to them, and you raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged before making a comment or asking a question.

What’s going on: Somehow, your teachers seem to dislike you. They ignore you outside class, and you detect a tinge of annoyance and exasperation when they answer your questions or respond to your comments.

What you might be doing wrong: Sure, you call them Ma’am and Sir. But you also call them countless names behind their backs, like Miss Hippopotamus for your chubby math teacher, and Mister Loser for your bespectacled English teacher. You honestly believe teachers
never find out about these little nicknames? Think again.

You raise your hand before asking a question, but are you asking a question because you really want to clarify something, or do you just want to lengthen the discussion so the quiz at the end of the period will be postponed? Teachers can sense if a student’s interest is genuine or not.

Are your comments sensible? Do you state them in a way that lets others in on your opinion, or do you state them like you think everyone else—including your teacher—is intellectually inferior to you?


What you should be doing: Nobody likes a backbiter. How would you feel if someone calls you one thing in front of you and another behind your back? Stop calling your teachers all those nasty nicks. Don’t tolerate your friends when they start the name-calling, either. Before you raise your hand to ask a question or make a comment, ponder on whether or not what you have to say is important and useful. Get rid of that smart aleck-y tone, too. If you wish to correct your teacher, do it in the most non-offensive, politest way possible.

What about your relationship with your parents—or your friend's parents? Click through to the next page to read more.

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About the author
Marla Miniano
Former Editor in Chief, Cosmopolitan
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