February 22, 2019 kirstycooke

Would you rather be liked or respected?

The important question: Would you rather be liked, or respected? Or maybe even loved? Are they opposed, and why does it matter?

My gut instinct when I first saw this question (it was always in the STYLIST final interview) was ‘Loved!’ As a performer (read: attention-seeker) and extrovert, someone who likes applause and making people laugh and not taking work more seriously than life, it seemed obvious to me that ‘respect’ is just a boring way of saying ‘I grudgingly accept your existence and you’re good at what you do’ whereas liked can be so much more.

However, when I’ve asked the question to friends and colleagues (and people who qualify as both), the most common (and instant) response is ‘Respected.’ The thinking? I want to be treated as an equal. I want to be recognised for the quality of what I put into the world. I want human rights. As my mum says, ‘I want to be liked. I need to be respected.’ It was seen as way too fundamental to give up for something as frivolous as a high five, big hug or round of applause. One friend told me: ‘Because if someone likes you but doesn’t respect you then they don’t see you as an equal or as someone to be taken seriously. With respect they’re immediately seeing you as someone worth listening too… I think it’s the either or that’s difficult. Because mostly you have both if your decent person. But as a woman who often feels disrespected on my opinions/position and general status I crave being respected. Think it’s a case of misogyny for me!’

I guess it hangs on how you define ‘respect’. Because, clearly, respect for my personhood is paramount. But would someone who truly liked or loved me NOT also respect me? It seems unlikely. Also, I think I had been working on the basis that ‘professional respect’ – as I said above, a begrudged confession that you can do your job well – was the definition of ‘respect’ in the question.

Respect, it turns out, has two definitions.

What does respect mean

Aha! So there we have it. A real lesson in the power of synonyms. While I would rather be adored than simply admired, it turns out it’s basically the same thing. If we are comparing the two definitions then of course: I would certainly rather have my rights respected and my wishes ‘heeded’ than be applauded or praised.

So. Would you rather be admired, revered, treasured and prized… or taken into consideration?