Failure to respect your opponent often has disastrous consequences.
Regardless of whether they’ve earned it, it’s always good practice to respect your opponents. If not because of their actions or integrity, then because of what they can teach you. And if not for that, then at least for the threat they pose you.
Reasons to respect your opponents
So you don’t underestimate them.
Even an inferior opponent can still win. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a skill advantage guarantees victory.
So your mind isn’t closed to learning opportunities.
As Kenneth Blanchard said, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” Even less experienced opponents have something to teach you. When you look down on someone, your ego makes it hard to adopt the parts of their strategy that work.
To kill your ego.
Lack of respect is often driven by ego. Feeding your ego has no benefit, but a lot of drawbacks. Tying your ego into competition is especially dangerous. After all, what if you lose? As Carol Dweck said, “if you’re somebody when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful?”
To bridge divides.
The first strategy for conflict should always be to seek amicable resolution. But how can you resolve conflict with someone you don’t respect? Lack of respect closes the door on reconciliation.
Caveats about respect
Respect means more than merely liking or agreeing with someone. It’s important to note that there are different types of respect, and very rarely will you respect every aspect of a person. Even in the most extreme cases, you should always be able to find something about your opponent that you respect.
Respecting your opponents doesn’t mean they’re better than you.
You can, and should, respect opponents who are technically less skilled. They still represent a threat, and they still have something to teach you.
Respecting your opponents doesn’t mean you have to like them.
It’s possible, and in fact desirable, to respect people that you don’t personally like. Diversity of opinion is usually best, and it comes from respecting those who are different.
Respecting your opponents doesn’t mean they’re right.
Even if someone is technically wrong, take the time to understand the circumstances that led them to that wrong conclusion. That’s a tremendous learning opportunity and a great way to bridge divides between people with differing opinions.
Respecting your opponents doesn’t mean they’re worthy of respect.
Even if someone is not acting in a moral or ethical way, there’s still an opporunity for respect. You can still learn from that person, and if nothing else you should at least respect the threat they pose.