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Can You Restore Respect Once You Lose It?

How to use emotions to rebuild a relationship.

auremar/Adobe Stock
Source: auremar/Adobe Stock

One of the quickest ways to destroy a relationship is to lose respect. Without respect, it is difficult to work with colleagues, honor friendships, believe in your boss, or stay in love with your spouse.

Though difficult, it is possible to restore respect. If you once cared for the person or held them in high regard, it is possible to return to this state if you choose to. If you never felt respect for the person, the suggestions outlined below might help you connect, but the focus of this post is on recovering lost respect.

Feeling contempt or shutting down when you see a person keeps you stuck in a toxic emotional pattern. These reactions often creep into your relationships over time as you lose focus on the value of your connection. You pay more attention to the faults of the person and the disappointments of their behavior, draining the warmth from your heart. You are left feeling callous and cold.

The more you spend time with a person you have lost respect for, the bleaker you experience life. Working to regain respect could not only save your relationship, it will lighten your spirit.

The feelings you experience when you see someone you disrespect range from feeling hollow and numb to profound contempt. Surprisingly, feeling contempt is easier to shift than filling the void of lost love, but the antidotes described below might work in both situations.

1. Choose to regain respect

You have to want to regain the respect you once lost. You might prefer to justify your reactions than to be the one who takes the higher road. To make the shift, you first have to consciously and genuinely choose to find your way back to respect. The angrier you are, the harder this will be. The choice is yours

2. Open your mind and heart

Before you face the person, find a place to sit quietly and feel the stillness of a calm and open heart. Re-connect with heart feelings, such as gratitude, kindness, compassion, appreciation, and love. Doc Childre describes this process in detail in the new HeartMath® Institute book, Heart Intelligence. When you sit quietly and open your heart, you reset your emotional experience. You can more easily rise above the choices made from your ego to activate higher reasoning.

A good practice is outlined in my book, Outsmart Your Brain. The four steps are to:

Relax your body. Breathe in, and then exhale the tension you are holding.

Detach your thoughts. Let your thoughts float away so your mind is clear.

Center your awareness. Breathe in again and follow your breath so your awareness lands on the center of your body, just below your navel. This will ground you in the present moment.

Focus on how you want to feel. Choose how you want to feel—gratitude, kindness, compassion, appreciation or love—and make this your keyword. Say the word to yourself as you take in your next breath, letting it float into your body and radiate from your heat.

3. Listen with compassionate curiosity

Do the four-step routine before you see the person to anchor your emotions in your body. When you meet the person, keep your heart open with compassionate curiosity. Look the person in the eyes. Know if you lose your composure, you can recall your keyword to recalibrate your emotions.

Listen with the intention to recall what you once appreciated about the person, to feel his or her goodness, and to reconnect with the relationship you once had. Remember the person is doing the best he or she can, working through humanity’s struggles just like you.

4. Do it for yourself

Recapturing respect increases your feelings of self-love as well as caring for the person you are with. You restore harmony in your world. You feel a greater sense of ease and grace. It takes much more energy to disrespect someone than to rediscover what is valuable about the person. Practice re-respecting to bring more peace and meaning into your life.

More from Marcia Reynolds Psy.D.
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