A word loaded with connotations. A word that means the difference between being paid attention to and ignored. Something many people desperately seek to get. But how to get and give respect? Therein lies the rub.
There are two ways that respect is granted. The first method - one that is the most common - is the idea of "earning" respect. "You get the respect you earn" or some such similar line has littered the ground of countless movies and books. It is the idea that respect is something that is not automatically granted due to the fact of existence but that it is given as part of the process of becoming "respectable" - that is, worthy of respect.
The second method - one that seems less common - is the idea of granting respect until it is lost. In this scenario, respect is extended to all as a result of their simply being in existence and is only lost when the individual chooses to loose it. In this concept there is no possibility to earn, only to lose. It is best represented in (of all places) the book Passage to Dawn by R.A. Salvatore in which the main character, Drizz't dro'Urden discusses the concept in a monologue. (Really. If you have a chance read it. It's quite profound.)
The interesting thing I've come to discover about this two theories of respect is that they are practiced in conflict. For most people in or of a group or at the higher levels of the organization, the expectation is that the second will always be applied to them (respect granted until lost) but that the first is what they will grant (respect not granted until earned). I suppose there is some degree of logic in their eyes, a sort of "having earned their spurs" and expecting others to do the same. But at the same time, there seems to be this expectation that respect being granted is done on essentially faith without any basis in competency or achievement but only by virtue of already being present.
Conceptually what would it be like if we all either practiced the theory that everyone had to learn respect - or that respect would be granted to all until lost? To my mind, the ramifications are enormous. Everyone would understand the rules of the game. Everyone would understand that respect is not something granted by virtue of title or name or office but of actual achievement - or contrariwise, that everyone starts out with the respect and it is only through their inability to achieve that such a thing can be lost.
I don't know that I am arguing for one or the other. Both have issues in my opinion - earning respect can become a scheme to always make respect just out reach, granting universally ultimately leads to a devaluation as both the competent and incompetent are granted a level which perhaps they do not deserve. But should we not at least recognize how others expect us to earn respect - and more importantly, what we expect of them?