Realizing that you’ve lost respect for a friend can be a shock. Sometimes, it happens suddenly as a result of something they say or do. Other times, it can be gradual, and you might not even notice until it’s gone.
Losing respect for a friend doesn’t always mean that you will also lose the friendship, but it might do. We’re going to look at why you might lose respect for a friend, what it can mean and what you can do about it.
There are two kinds of respect; respecting someone as a person and respecting them as an authority. Respecting someone as a person means we believe that they have their own thoughts and opinions and that they are, fundamentally, our equal.
Respecting someone as an authority is based on their status or their abilities. We take their opinions more seriously, and we may defer to their opinions.
When we talk about losing respect for a friend, we usually mean losing respect for them as a person. We have stopped seeing them as an equal. That might be because they have hurt us, or we don’t trust them to treat us with respect in turn.
When respect is lost, it may be impossible to have a well-balanced friendship. While it is possible to have a friendship that is temporarily imbalanced, it’s not healthy in the long term.
- Reasons why you can lose respect for a friend
- What you can do if you’ve lost respect for a friend
- How to regain respect for someone
Everyone has their own criteria when it comes to who they respect, but there are some common things that will usually lead you to lose respect for a friend. Here are 6 common reasons to lose respect for a friend:
Friends, even close friends, don’t share all of our values. But if we don’t share values that are very important to us, it can be hard to maintain mutual respect.
Sometimes, friends will lose respect for each other over political differences. However, there is a difference between losing respect for someone based on tribal differences (for example, whether you would describe yourself as a Republican or a Democrat) and losing respect for someone because they don’t share your core values (for example, beliefs about racial equality or freedom of religion).
Sometimes, you may discover that a friend is hurtful or cruel to other people. This can often come as a surprise, especially if they’ve always been kind and thoughtful towards you.
When you lose respect for someone based on how they treat others, it’s because they are showing you that they don’t want to give others the basic respect that they deserve.
Dishonesty might be in the form of manipulation, lying, or even theft. Whatever form it takes, someone who is dishonest is showing that they don’t respect you, making it hard to respect them in return.
Sometimes a friend shares your core values but isn’t willing to stand up for them. They might remain quiet when someone else tells a racist joke, for example.
When someone isn’t willing to stand up for what they believe in, it can be hard to trust that they will support you when you need it.
Being willing to take risks isn’t always bad, but you can lose respect for someone who takes needless risks. If you don’t respect their judgment, you can’t trust them when it comes to making decisions or weighing up safety risks in potentially dangerous situations.
We probably all know someone who can’t take responsibility for anything. Whatever goes wrong, they always find someone else to blame. It’s difficult to see someone as your equal and worthy of respect when they won’t accept responsibility.
Sometimes, we lose respect for others because of something that is going on in our lives. Maybe we are stressed and have become judgmental, or maybe they have accidentally done something that reminds us of someone else who has hurt us in the past.
Taking a little bit of time to think before deciding what to do about losing respect for a friend can help us to calm down and be sure that we aren’t being unreasonable.
We often talk about “losing all respect” for someone, but that’s usually not what happens. Normally, we find that we simply don’t respect them as much as we used to. We might feel judgmental about some of their opinions or behavior or not trust them as much.
Think about what your current level of respect for your friend means to you. Try asking yourself how you would feel about this person if you met them for the first time today.
If you wouldn’t let them in your life if you met them now, are you sure you want them in your life at all?
Adjusting how close you are to a friend (and how much you trust them) based on how much you respect them isn’t about punishing them. It’s about looking after your welfare and enforcing your boundaries.
Losing respect for someone can leave us feeling sad or lost. We realize that our friend isn’t actually the person we thought they were. You might need to mourn the person you thought they were before you can decide whether you want to be friends with who that person actually is.
Whether you decide to stay friends with someone you have lost respect for or not, the relationship will have changed. Try to set clear boundaries around what you want the relationship to be from now on.
People who have lost your respect (and often your trust as well) might push you to forgive them or to give them a second chance. Try not to make promises about this straight away. Say, “I need to take some time to think about this. Please don’t contact me again for a week while I try to work out how I feel. We can talk about it then.”
Being friends with someone you don’t respect can damage your self-respect. Keeping quiet when they say something hurtful, for example, can leave you feeling ashamed that you didn’t intervene.
If you start to feel your self-respect slipping, you should probably think about whether it is worth keeping that person in your life.
The good news is that you can regain respect for someone, but you can’t do it alone. Both of you will need to work on rebuilding your relationship.
It’s also important to check whether you actually want to regain your respect for someone. Regaining respect will take time and effort from both of you.
Being honest with each other is the first step to rebuilding respect. You will each need to explain your understanding of what happened, and you will both need to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Be explicit. Tell them about the moment you lost all respect for them so that there’s no doubt how you feel and why.
You need to know that they really understand what they did wrong and that they’ve thought about the situation from your perspective. Try asking, “How do you think that made me feel?” or “What do you think that meant to me?”
If someone is trying to regain your respect, they really need to be doing the lion’s share of the work while letting you decide what you’re comfortable with.
If someone has lost your respect by stealing from you, for example, you might not want to let them into your home. It’s OK for you to expect them to meet you at a public place where you feel secure. If they start to pressure you to “get over it” more quickly or resent having to accommodate your needs, they’re showing you that they’re not willing to earn your respect.
This isn’t about making them jump through hoops to get your respect back. It’s about protecting yourself until you feel secure enough to trust them again.
The other person won’t be able to regain your respect without actually changing their behavior. Be honest about what you need to see to believe that they have actually changed and are worth your respect.
It can help if you communicate your core values and show why the other person’s actions didn’t fit with that. For example:
“I believe everyone is equal and that it is important that I treat them equally. When you make sexist jokes, even if you don’t mean them, you make women feel vulnerable. I need you to show me that you treat everyone equally as well.”
You won’t be able to regain respect for a friend if you don’t believe that they are capable of changing. Keeping an open mind isn’t about “forgive and forget.” It’s about finding a balance between giving them the chance to show that they have changed and looking after yourself.
If it is difficult to assume that your friend has positive motivations for what they’re doing, try thinking of as many alternative explanations as you can. The more possibilities you can see, the easier it can be to believe that they might have changed.
Regaining respect won’t happen quickly, and the other person needs to be willing to wait for it to come back naturally. You will also need to accept that you can’t force yourself to respect someone again, no matter how much you might wish you could. Remember that not all relationships can or should be saved. A friendship can survive a loss of respect, but it can’t survive if you’ve lost respect completely.