Living things (like you) communicate instinctively and intentionally to reduce current discomforts ("needs"). The most poweful of six universal communication needs is to gain and keep *respect*. How would you define "respect" to an average 10-year old?

As you know, there are two sources of our sense of respect (worthiness and value): (a) ourselves ("self respect"), and (b) other people. Our vital senses of "self-esteem" and "self love" are powerfully shaped by self and social respect.

We unconsciously notice different "respect zones" about ourselves and each other - e.g. global respect as a person; gender respect as a wo/man; and various role-respects like parent, friend, child, sibling, citizen, coach, pastor, neighbor, employee, executive, athlete, etc. We may respect somone as a gardener, cook, architect, aunt, plumber, or astronaut, and disrespect them as a person.

Students of intepersonal communication dynamics agree that all verbal and nonverbal communucations are multi-level. That us, there are several "layers" of meaning decoded from most social behaviors.

One level is conscious meaning, and another is implied or "embedded" meaning. Embedded messages are often decoded unconsciously - yet still have significant effects on our reactions to each other.

Perhaps the most powerful embedded message we communicators constantly decode from each other is "Do you respect me now?" There are three basic "Respect messages" we receive from all adults and kids:

* "You feel 1-up (superior) to me generally, or now;"

* "You feel 1-down (inferior) to me generally, or now;" and...

* "You feel my dignity and worth are just as valid and important as yours are ('=/=') generally or now."

Think of someone with whom you usually communicate "pretty well." Reflect - which of these three embedded "R-messages" do each of you usually receive from the other? Now think of a child or adult whom you often have "trouble communicating with." Which R-message do you each usually decode from the other?

People who genuinely respect themselves in calm and conflictual situations are more apt to send "=/=" (mutual respect) R-messages to their partners. Shame-based people are usually unaware of sending 1-up or 1-down messages to their partners via their eye contact, voice tone, body posture, and language.

Reflect - how do you usually feel and act when you receive a disrespectful (1-up / superior) R-message from another person? How about when you receive 1-down ("I'm inferior") messages? Would you agree that each of these degrade the effectiveness of communication and relationships? That in turn usually affects our self-respect and self love over time.

Perceived disrespect usually causes reciprocal disrespect, and vice versa. Mutual disrespect inevitably degrades communication effectiveness and relationship satisfactions.

SO - coach yourself and invite important others to be aware of your embedded and decoded R-messages - specially in stressful and conflictual times. Strive to feel genuine mutual respect, and to broadcast steady "=/=" messages - even with those who attack, ignore, and/or scorn you.

Most adults and all kids are unaware of their R-messages. This is part of a larger universal problem - lack of pesonal and social *awareness.*

For more perspective on R-messages and related communication concepts and tools, see

Author's Bio: 

I have studied and taught communication and relationship basics and skills to a wide range of lay and professional groups for 45 years. My book on effective communication skills is "Satisfactions" (, 2002). I have been an educator and family-systems psychotherapist (MSW) with over 1,000 persons, couples, and families since 1981.