Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taking Offense

Don't you just hate it when someone takes offense to something you said, when you were not trying to be offensive?

This happens to me quite often. I am a very opinionated person. I have my opinions of things, and they often differ from the opinions of everyone else around me (and often differ from the so-called 'experts' on the topic). I also have a tendency to get very passionate about things that I care about and my view of things. I can also be rather competitive & stubborn. I mostly stay away from debates with people because of these reasons. I offend enough people just by voicing my opinions, debating them just makes it more likely that I will offend. I've learned that people can only be offended by you so many times before they really don't like you.

Once, I was talking with some friends, and a local temp agency came up. This temp agency was very near the office where I worked. From my desk, I could see the people show up at the agency looking for work. Many of them looked unwashed & unkempt. So, in the conversation, I had stated that were I in charge of hiring, I would not be likely to hire someone from that temp agency. I happen to believe that you should put your best foot forward, be clean, well-dressed, and well-groomed when looking for a job. If you don't respect yourself enough to bathe & brush your hair before going for an interview, why should the interviewer believe you will be responsible & put the job as a high priority? I mean really, if the interview wasn't a high enough priority for you to jump in the shower & do a load of laundry, it's not likely that the job will be important enough for you to do those things regularly. Anyway, one of the people in the group I was talking with got very angry at me. Apparently, she used that temp agency. So, since I had commented that most of the people they dealt with looked unwashed & unkempt, she took that as a personal attack on her. Now, I didn't mean to offend her. I had no way of knowing that she used that agency, and I had not said that the agency only dealt with dirty people. However, that was exactly what she took from it. I still stand by what I said. People don't hire you if they need to spray air freshener the second you leave the room. You would think that the temp agency, in order to uphold their reputation, might mention something to to those who come in looking like they haven't had a bath in a month.

Ok, the point of that story was to illustrate how easy it is to offend someone with no malice intended on your part. Trying not to offend someone online is even more difficult than in person, especially when you don't know the person in real life. You don't know the person's situation, history, personality, etc. So, it's very easy to say something, meaning no harm, and accidentally offend someone.

I have offended people by giving my opinion on curricula. I have offended people by telling a story from my childhood & saying that I had been bothered by my parents' belief that I was stupid enough to believe the ridiculous lies they told me (apparently, by stating how I had felt as a child, I somehow insulted the intelligence of every child in the world who believes in Santa). I have offended people by stating that my standards & expectations are different from theirs, not better, just different.

I don't voice my opinion to cause offense to others. I don't say what's on my mind in an attempt to hurt other people or make them feel inferior, insecure, etc. When that happens, it really isn't the intended outcome. When I voice my opinion, it is just that - my opinion. When I say what I think about something, it is what I think, based on my experiences. I fully understand that others see things differently than I do. We each have our own experiences, our own opinions, and we need to be allowed to voice them without someone jumping down our throats because their opinion differs.