Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher and several liberal senators worried together yesterday over how far the United States can pressure other nations to respect human rights without provoking a backlash.

In testimony to Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey's (D-Minn.) Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance, Christopher listed questions the Carter administration is considering as it pursues its goal of increasing worldwide respect for human rights.

The questions include whether an American action might make the situation at hand worse and whether quiet "friendly persuasion" might be more effective than public action.

He and Patricia Derian, the designated head of the State Department's office for human rights and humanitarian affairs, stressed that the United Stats could not self-righteously preach ot the world, but had to work closely with other governments and multinational organizations.

Derian said that in contrast to the Ford administration, she was now participating in the regular, top-level State Department meetings and was consulted on all questions involving human rights.

She told the subcommittee, however, that her staff of two, plus one person borrowed from outside the department, was inadequate and said she would be back to request authorization for a larger staff after she is confirmed in her post by the Senate.

Humphrey's subcommittee created Derian's office, and yesterday's hearing reflected that the Carter administration is the first to share the subcommittee's concern over human rights abroad.

However, Humphrey and Sen. Clifford P. Case (R-N.J.) joined Christopher and Derian in expressions of concern over the delicacy and difficulty of a foreign policy emphasizing human rights concerns.

"Unhappily, there's no litmus test," Christopher said in discussing the need to consider each case separately in relation to U.S. strategic and economic needs.

Case noted that the Carter administration's emphasis has "got a lot of people scared to death, including some in the government." He added that he didn't fully accept Derian's absolutist approach.

She had told the sub committee: "You can't pick and choose." All human rights come together as a package, she said. "There's no top 10."

The administration has reduced aid to Argentina, Uruguay and Ethiopia to express its concern over human rights abuses.

Humphrey and Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), while applauding the administration's concern for human rights, took pains to elicit assurances from Christopher that although the United States may give verbal support to dissidents in Soviet-bloc nations, should there be an uprising as took place in Hungary in 1956 the United States has no intention of intervening militarily.

Christopher also said that the U.S. visa policy that has blocked visits by many Communists who are not government officials is "outdated and in need of reform."

At another point, he was asked how the government should deal with a country as seemingly irrational as Uganda. "Carefully," he replied.