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The words tolerance and respect may seem very similar or even interchangeable. But there is a difference, and understanding it can bring extra value to your relationships.
Does that sound like wordsmithing to you? Try asking yourself: Do you want to be tolerated or respected in a relationship?
To tolerate or to respect?
All humans and you are unique beings and have different opinions, attitudes and perspectives. So it's natural that you and your partner or friend may not always agree on everything. When you have an opinion that your partner disagrees with and chooses to tolerate it, they put themselves in a bit of a superior position. It can also trigger a tolerance trade-off in the relationship, where you are expected to tolerate something in return. Respect requires more active effort and courage. If your partner disagrees with you, but chooses to respect your opinion, it shows that you have value to them. He or she respects your opinion, even if it is different from theirs.
In real relationships, the line between these two concepts can be very thin. By both tolerance and respect, you show that you acknowledge the differences between you and your partner. But to tolerate them means more likely to endure them. You live with them, even when they cause you suffering.
Respect doesn’t mean no conflicts.
Czech couple therapist Honza Vojtko says that respect is about being able to come to your partner and tell them about something you don't like. It's about being able to bear the fact that it might hurt them, but also giving them space to respond and open up communication. Yes, conflict can arise, but that's not a bad thing. Conflicts are an important part of relationships. When there is respect in a relationship, there’s also a safe space.
There is a lot of talk about tolerance in society today in various contexts. If we can do anything, it is to try to understand these concepts and use them in their meaning. Because would you just like to be tolerated?
We hope you found this article useful. Take a look at the resources we've used if you want to know more:
- Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Tolerance. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tolerance
- Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Respect. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/respect
- Fenyklová, Š. (2023). Zdravý vztah nestojí na toleranci nebo kompromisech, ale na respektu, tvrdí párový terapeut Vojtko. Leonardo Plus: https://plus.rozhlas.cz