the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.
I was listening to the Audiobook Blink by Malcolm Gladwell a few weeks ago. In the book he discusses a relationship expert who can, after watching a 15 minute video recorded discussion by a couple, predict with a very high level of accuracy whether that couple’s relationship would ultimately end up in divorce.
While there were numerous emotions that could be seen when the video was analyzed frame by frame, the most definitive emotion that correlated with divorce was contempt. (see definition above) If this expert saw contempt in someone for their spouse, that seed would ultimately spell the demise for the relationship.
I have seen the same thing happen in other types of relationships that are not husband-wife. I have seen it in siblings, between parents and children, and between a company and its employees or customers. As soon as contempt enters the relationship, the chances of it surviving long term in a healthy way are dramatically reduced.
In the business context, whether that contempt is how the customer feels towards a business (for example, after a poor customer service call), or whether that contempt is how the business feels towards it customers (for example, a sales or engineering team mocking or insulting its customers. “Our customers are idiots!”)
When trying to build a healthy relationship, contempt must be replaced with respect. Acquiescence, subservience or deference is not the antonym of contempt, respect is. It is the only cure.
After handing out a Christmas time cash bonus, a former boss of mine would say “Don’t thank me, thank our customers.” I liked this. To me, this seemed to put the proper relationships in place. Our job was not to respect and appreciate the boss necessarily, it was to respect and appreciate the customer.
Think of the relationships you manage in your life. Work, Church, Family, Friends. If you find you have contempt for the other party, or if you think the other party has contempt for you, then the chances of a healthy relationship are small unless contempt can be removed from the relationship and can be replaced with respect.