Everybody is offended nowadays. And that’s fine, you have a right to feel your feelings. You even have to right to express your feelings to others. But the way that you do that is important.
When I was younger I was impetuous and opinionated. I was judgmental and loved to point out peoples flaws and tell them how to fix themselves. I knew that people hated me for this and I didn’t care because I was “telling it like it is” and “they just can’t handle the truth.”
As I grew up (physically and emotionally), I realised that I did care whether people liked me or not, and I had enough flaws of my own that I should not start throwing rocks. I still had a lot of the same opinions but I started to keep them to myself.
As the world became a more horrendous place, and I became more self-aware, it became increasingly difficult to keep my thoughts inside. So I began to pick and choose my battles. I would speak out against things that directly effected me, and I ignored things that would cause me more hassle than they were worth. A selfish way to live, maybe, but energy efficient. I also changed the way that I expressed myself so I sounded less combative and it was less likely to become an argument. It didn’t always work, but I tried.
And then Covid happened. Fear and anxiety are at an all time high. People are less distracted and worn out by their monotonous jobs. Politics is the topic on everybody’s lips, and things are getting heated. More and more people are publicly and aggressively stating their beliefs and, in doing so, inviting others to publicly and aggressively disagree with them.
I am not exempt from this. With everything that has been going on, ‘bandwagons’ are being created so that people can push their particular agendas, and it is demanded that everybody either jump on the bandwagon or be crushed beneath the wheels. I do my best, where I can, to give a different opinion, another option, an alternative perspective, and more often than not, I am immediately vilified and the rowdy rabble begin sharpening their pitchforks hungrily.
And so we arrive at the crux of my argument. As much as you have the right to be offended, and express your hurt feelings, I have the right to express my opinions. Of course, there will be some occasions where a person is being deliberately offensive, or combative, or discriminatory, and that should definitely be addressed, but even under those circumstances, there is an effective way to do it. Have you ever been told not to lose your temper at a bully, because then they know they’ve won? If you calmly, and logically discuss their opinions, you’ll very quickly be able to tell if they are just trying to irritate you or not. This approach also prevents you from becoming a bully yourself by attacking someone who you assumed was being deliberately offensive, when really they are just confused, or looking to understand, or in some cases, just have a different opinion to you.
And you know, it’s okay for people to have different opinions. There is no unilateral ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. People are shaped by their life experiences, by society, by propaganda, by religion, by culture etc. etc. They will form different opinions based on these things and that is okay. The way we will evolve as a species is by being open to listen to different opinions and try to understand them. Even if you eventually decide that you still disagree, that is okay too.
The best way to avoid being combative or aggressive when expressing opinions, is put things in terms of your own perspective. I.e, In stead of saying “X is good, Y is bad, and anybody who thinks Y is good, is a bad person”, say “I think X is good, I believe Y is bad and I don’t understand those who think otherwise”. Obviously you can use your own vernacular, but using phrases like “I think”, “I believe”, “In my opinion”, “If you ask me”, etc., shows that you understand that not everyone will have the same opinion as you and you accept that. It shows emotional maturity and might even open up an interesting conversation with points of view that you hadn’t considered before.
Some people may still be offended, and this is also okay. You might find that you are still offended by others opinions, especially if they have directly addressed you in their disagreement. If you are a person who is quick to anger, then it is good practice to walk away from your computer or phone for a few minutes to calm down before responding. We have all said things in the heat of the moment that we didn’t mean, and the internet is a ruthless place. Don’t put yourself in that position, it will only make things worse.
Once you have calmed down, reread the comment to make sure you haven’t misread, misunderstood, or misinterpreted. Often people will read between the lines and make assumptions and draw conclusions that were not intended by the original poster. Read the words they are actually saying and take them at face value then, if you still don’t understand, ask for clarification. If you think they have misunderstood what you said, then go ahead and clarify for them. All of this should be done in a calm and clear way, and use the same personal perspective as before. In stead of “You’re wrong”, “You’ve misunderstood”, “You’re talking nonsense” etc., say things like “That doesn’t seem right to me”, “Let me explain differently”, “I don’t understand”. The most important part of all of this is not to force them to change their mind or bully them into submission, but to try and understand their opinion.
Also, there is a time and a place for profanity. When somebody starts overusing swear words (especially when they are specifically directed towards another person), it denotes a lack of emotional intelligence and inability to form rational thought. It destroys any credibility they have and basically nullifies their opinion since they don’t seem to know themselves why they believe it. It usually happens because someone is unable to control their emotions and they feel vulnerable because of that. The only way they can regain control of the situation, is to make you more angry and upset than them. Don’t be one of these people, and don’t waste your energy arguing with them, they have lost their reasoning skills. If they are actually smart people, they will return when they’ve calmed down and talk to you properly.
Finally, I leave you with the most important lesson:
You cannot control other people, only yourself and your own reactions. If you are offended by something, it is not the fault or the responsibility of the other person, it is for you to understand why.
If we continue the ‘bandwagon’ culture of “join us or be destroyed”, then we will end up in a tyrannical censorship-society where the people who really are being oppressed or discriminated against will be unable to speak out.
So, one more time for the people who are offended by this blog post; all opinions are valid.