"respect helps us relax..."

I've been asking some questions about my writing lately, and this passage answered one of them, at least. It's from Mary Pipher 's Writing to Change the World. She's the author of Reviving Ophelia and The Shelter of Each Other, and she shares lessons she's learned through her work as a therapist that have aided her in writing influential pieces. I'm sharing it today, not only for my writing friends, but for everyone who strives to influence change:

Therapists can succeed only with people whom they respect, which is not as difficult as it sounds. Most people are sympathetic when we hear their stories from their point of view. Clients do not have to be likable or even reasonable for therapists to respect them. They just need to be trying to improve.

Contempt shows, and it always becomes mutual. It evokes defensiveness and fear, which poison the change process. Attacks cause all of us to build the walls around ourselves even higher. Respect helps us relax around each other enough to contemplate changing.

Martin Luther King Jr. underscored the importance of respect in his essay "The Call of Service." He encouraged civil rights workers not to stereotype or label their adversaries as rednecks, crackers, or fools. He argued that all people are multifaceted, and that to divide the world into us and them was to risk joining the ranks of the opponents.