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The Easily Offended

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I interact in a number of online communities (and that number may actually be "3" or "4", but "a number" sounds cooler than "some"), and have since the tender young age of 14. My experience is, I think, growing more and more common" my primary interaction with people for two, three, four, up to ten hours of any given day during my formative teenage and young adult years was through the internet. Teenagers this day and age are spending more and more time online. As the internet grows, I can only imagine that this phenomenon -- in which we participate right now, fellow bloggers and blog-readers -- will continue to grow.

I attended a conference recently -- one of those "Let's grow our employees!" conferences full of motivating speakers -- and in a couple of the seminars I attended, the speakers emphasized that 80% of human communication takes place not through words, but body language. And that of the 20% left, something like 15% of that was communicated through tone of voice. This left approximately 5% of communication to pass through the words themselves.

I think this does not please me.

Why? Ultimately, because I communicate best through words. Ether complained of being mighty in speech but not mighty at all in writing; I've got the opposite affliction. Writing is my strong suite, and vocal communication...I can do it, mind, but not as well as I write. I think this may be a reflection on my many years of preference for online communication -- or perhaps the preference is a reflection of the strength.

Either way, when you communicate strictly through words, much of the emotion, the inflection, the humor, and the other non-verbal signs that help you communicate what exactly you're trying to get across are missing.

This opens the floodgate for miscommunication.

I was recently taken to task by a forum moderator for offending folks when I hadn't...okay. Maybe I did intend offense. But not much. Just a little. And maybe I intended it because the person with whom I was speaking was...well, she's easily offended. One of those folks who will happily take everything you say as meant in the most disparaging and mean-spirited way possible -- even if all you're saying is, "Gee, how 'bout them Mets?"

I struggle to deal with those people in real life. I'm not easily offended at all -- perhaps because I generally keep my nose in my own business -- and I find the notion of being offended by every little thing somewhat...silly.

In fact, for that matter, I find the notion of offense rather silly. What are people usually offended by? In Mormon culture, swearing should offend me. Does it? I don't find it pleasant -- I prefer if folks don't let off strings of "offensive" words at me -- but neither does it in any way harm me. What about insults? My pride may take a hit if someone insults my intelligence/looks/feelings/ideas, true -- but am I offended? Not as long as I've got the gusto to give back as good as I get.

No, I don't really see much of a purposes for offense. And in this day and age of completely written communication, in this time when it's all the easier to offend, I find the idea of being ready to take offense rather than tackle a problem or dismiss an insult to be entirely counter-productive.

In fact, I can only think of one thing that really, truly offends me: people who are easily offended.

13 Responses to “The Easily Offended”

  1. Anonymous D-Train 

    Of course she'd be offended if you called her a Met fan.

  2. Anonymous Mary Siever 


    Good post. And I agree with you. I think offense is often too easily taken. I believe most people don't mean to offend and I tend to take it that way. At least I try to!

    However, there are strong opinions, and I for one don't mind those. Makes for lively discussion.

  3. Anonymous Susan M 

    I'm wondering if people who take offense easily are also people who take themselves too seriously. Because that's the only thing about people that can really bother me. Taking themselves too seriously.

    I used to participate in a web board that had discussions and people posting images that would probably offend even you, Arwyn, but man were those people funny.

  4. Anonymous Sue 

    I struggle with this also. I have a naturally glum face. I'm not a glum person - in fact, I think I'm actually a pretty happy and optimistic person generally - but my face, when relaxed, or when I'm deep in thought, looks like a thundercloud. My whole life people have read more into my facial expressions than was ever intended. I can't tell you how many times people have told me to "cheer up," "smile," or have asked me in a well meaning way what was wrong. I have to remind my friends about my glum face, so they don't think I'm depressed or angry with them. When I worked in an office, I had to remind my employees that no - I wasn't in a bad mood, that was just my face. I try to remember to put a smile on my face, but you can't be mindful of it at every moment.

    Anyway, because of my expressions, people have many times taken offense where none was intended, because of the look on my face. It's taught me to always give people the benefit of the doubt - they usually don't mean what you are crediting them with. I'm very hard to offend at this point in my life. Even when someone is trying to be offensive, I just assume that wasn't the intention.

    (And if I could get plastic surgery to correct the glumness problem, believe me, I would!)

  5. Anonymous Arwyn 

    Were they images of Mets, Susan? ;)

    I realized after I posted this that it could be taken as a response to some of the responses to D-Train's "Major Scoop." It rather wasn't meant to be that, but a response to an experience I had this week. Then again, take it how you like. I won't be offended.

    Mary, I'm with you on the strong opinions side. And I figure that strong opinions are strong opinions -- or funny pictures are funny pictures -- and it's more a waste of my time and energy to get upset over them when I could be doing something more proactive, like expressing my own strong opinion in the opposite direction.

    Susan, I think you've got a point. And then there are those who take others too seriously -- ie, who are offended on the behalf of others who, for whatever reason, cannot be offended for themselves...those are the ones that amuse me.

  6. Anonymous Eric 

    This may not be the direction you were going, but I often greatly prefer written communication. I really like having internal e-mail at work. I would often rather receive a letter than a phone call. I prefer reading conference talks than listening to them, etc. Boy, do I need to work on my people skills!

  7. Anonymous Stephen M (Ethesis) 

    Reminds me of why I don't have a beard, no matter how much my wife likes it. I just can't do my job with a beard and the impact it has on my ability to use non-verbal cues.

    Having a bad cold used to cause me similar problems.

  8. Anonymous NFlanders 

    "Of course she'd be offended if you called her a Met fan." -- D-Train

    As a Mets fan, I am offended!!!!!

  9. Anonymous Pris 

    "As a Mets fan, I am offended!!!!!"

    Oh, Flanders, you shouldn't worry about that. I would have thought that being a Morrissey fan you would be used to having others make fun of you...

  10. Anonymous Arwyn 

    Sue, that reminds me of CS Lewis, who wrote in his biography of his younger years that everyone kept telling him to "wipe that insolent look off your face." He wasn't being insolent, nor did he have an insolent look on purpose -- it was just his face, and he realized that it made people think he was being sulky and whatnot.

    Eric, you know, I much prefer written communication too. When someone at work asks me to do something face-to-face, I almost always ask them to follow it up in an email -- I forget things or can't think it through thoroughly if I don't have it written down. I can set my thoughts down much more succinctly in writing. And that certainly has its place. I'm not disparaging writing as a communication form at all -- in fact, few things please me as much as the well-formed piece of writing. But when it becomes our sole means of communication, we lose a lot of the essence of communication, and have to make up for it by rambling on and on as we try to clarify what we mean.

    This comment, a case in point. ;)

  11. Anonymous Psychic Head 

    Morrissey is a cockhorse. Is that offensive? I think most adults are offensive, and I don't like dealing with them. That is why I think my Primary calling is the best calling in the world: the children have no pretense. I leave Sacrament and go straight to the Primary room with my little CTRs. My whole point of being is to offend adults...shake the structure...People in general have such narrow "constructs of perception" and if you can understand an individual's "construct of perception" (my phrase), then the easier it is to communicate with them. You guide the communication. Yummy...

  12. Anonymous xcixjZGnwb 

    o61OMuABZ2UIic amHaWNKENESk uhjGktxW6C1

  13. Anonymous SeveriN 

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