With the possible exception of Manliness (and only a possible exception), this is the one Roman Virtue that might seem the most outdated. But even if some of us don't consider "Respectability" a virtue per se, it still plays an important role in our society. The Romans defined Respectability as the image that one presents as a respectable member of society. In a multicultural society, respectability is more loosely defined. One might be acting as a respectable member of society according to the mores of his own neighborhood, and then be totally out of place and even unrespectable just 30 miles down the road. The best modern interpretation for this virtue is being aware of the values and conventions around you as you cross cultural boundaries, and to and to avoid appearing like a shady person or giving any impression you didn't intend. If you accept this interpretation, then respectability definitely has meaning for just about everyone.

If you live in America or another Westernized culture, then you probably travel across several cultural boundaries every day and you should be aware of what is expected in each one. There have been many stories shared about people who have gone to job interviews at a major corporation in flip-flops or a t-shirt—don't let yourself be one of these people. Make sure that when you need to impress someone (or whenever want to show extra respect and are willing to change your usual behavior to do so), that you are aware of what's expected and desired from you and that you suit your dress and demeanor for the occasion. It's usually beneficial to be your true self, but you will not be sharing anything resembling a close relationship with anyone you see at a job interview or other formal meeting, and they won't want to have a close relationship with you either. You can also see it as protecting yourself from unfair bias and prejudice.

You should also be aware of how you appear in your normal, day-to-day behavior. You shouldn't judge people by their appearance, but that certainly doesn't mean that others will kindly return the favor (although you still benefit from the compassionate life-style). If you're clothes are disheveled or if you lurk and have bad posture, for example, then this can send people a bad message and may make people intrinsically trust you a little less. This isn't fair, and if you don't want to necessarily adjust your behavior as conscious rebellion then by all means do what you feel is right, but you should still be aware what's happening.

One more tip: you can really improve your appearance of respectability by developing better social habits and improving your social intelligence. By looking more alert, smiling more, and giving the right amount of eye-contact, then you will seem much more confident and "likeable" than you will without those habits. Developing your social intelligence so you respond well and appropriately to social cues will also help you appear more respectable.

Here are some tips that may help you develop this trait:


  • Make a On-The-Surface Record: We are used to making a record for internal virtues, but for this virtue it might help you to create a superficial record. Look at yourself after you leave the house for the day (or in the late morning if you don't). How did you do? Is your appearance up to par? I don't mean to judge the looks you were born with, but instead your hair, clothes, personal hygiene, etc. Make your own standards (or have a friend help) and record if you've lived up to them after it really matters.
  • Research Manners and Work on Problem Areas Like Virtues: You probably have some habits that are worse than others. Work on your worst social behaviors just like you would work on... well your worst virtues.
  • Be Hygienic: Don't let anyone fault you for being gross or dirty... by never (rarely) being gross and dirty. Always sneeze into your elbow. Try not to wipe your nose with your arm. Be more thorough during showers. Experiment with deodorant and perfumes/colognes (don't be too excessive, even if you do smell good some people might be allergic). Brush your teeth and use a healthy mouthwash as some kill all microbes—even the good ones. Just evaluate yourself at make sure you do it all.
  • Work on First Impressions and Conversation Skills: Read up on this subject. And make goals just like you would with virtues. For instance, you could focus on eye contact at first, and then move to asking good follow up questions next.
  • Learn Social Intelligence: If you think you don't have it, get it (never hurts to read up on it if you're not sure).

Your Record

Whenever you are rude or give a bad impression, but yourself at "fault"; you really should do research if you are not confident judging yourself in this area. Whenever you appear in an important public place without your basic, suitable requirements for appearance and hygiene (or stay at home for too long without a shower), then mark yourself at fault. Make some goals based on the activities up above. If you fail to make improvements and reach your goals, then mark yourself at fault.


Respectability is in and over all things. There are respectable substances to eat, and drink, and wear; there are respectable towns and streets and situations—for men and houses. There is a shade of respectability in colors. A black coat is more respectable than a brown one—a white handkerchief decidedly more so than a red one. Why this is we cannot tell, we only know that it is so.

One of the immutable laws of nature is, that doctors and lawyers shall wear black coats and white handkerchiefs, and perhaps to this, in a large degree, is owing the respectability which is so generally conceded to those bodies. I speak not here of lawyerings and doctorlings—boys with scarcely a tinge of their profession, who are injudiciously abandoned in those matters to their own weak judgments and perverted tastes, and who consequently go abroad in josephean garments " of many colors," but of full-grown responsible men of law and physic. Who would trust a life or a lawsuit of any importance to one of either profession in a pea-green coat, fancy waistcoat, and colored handkerchief? the idea is preposterous. There is more in those black and white habiliments than the unthinking dream of.

William Cox | Crayon sketches

Golden Mean

Indecency, Indelicacy, Inappropriateness, Disdainfulness, Haughtiness, Superciliousness
Pretentiousness, Self-importance, Pompousness

Recommended Reading

First Impressions: What You Don't Know About How Others See You — by Ann Demarais, Valerie White

First impressions are very important, and this author combines professional experience along with scientific research into a guide on how to act to make a good first impression, and how to consciously monitor your behavior so you know how good your skills are.

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated — by Judith Martin

The tone may be a slightly Victorian, but this popular guide is a good read for anyone who wants to improve their manners.

How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships — by Leil Lowndes

This book is all tips and tricks on how to talk to virtually anyone and keep a conversation. Part of it is social intelligence, but the skills presented here will help those who want to become "respectable".

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

In honorable dealing you should consider what you intended , not what you said or thought. Marcus Tullius Cicero