Acknowledge Others

Written by:  AnnElise Parkhurst, Ph.D.

When I reflect about respect as a facet of civility, I think about the story of the three blind men who are asked to investigate an elephant and report back on their findings. Each man has a different section of the elephant to inspect. As you might guess, when they report their findings, they each have a very different belief of what an elephant is. The man who inspects the tail discusses something that is very different than what the man who inspects the trunk, which in turn, is very different than the man who investigates the ears. What do we make of the differing reports? Who is "right”? Which individual has the last word on what comprises an elephant?


Common sense suggests that each view has merit arising from the perspective of the reporter, even though that perspective maybe unknown to others. Respect in this situation dictates that I suspend belief in my own "rightness” to learn more about the other’s perspective. As I am better able to assume the other’s position and to comprehend the other’s perspective, I am better able to understand my own reactions and to maintain civility in my relationships.