Don’t be so determined. Am I making a case against hard work and perseverance? Absolutely not. What I mean is don’t be so determined to be offended. Some people seem determined to be put out, insulted and offended at every opportunity. They wear their pet issues on their sleeves and never, ever think that anyone means them well. Every conversation or interaction is a chance to jump on their soapbox and launch into a tirade. I call them the chronically offended.
It’s true that we still need to deal with racism, sexism, ageism and a whole host of inappropriate and mean spirited attitudes in today’s world. We certainly want to call people out when they knowingly stomp all over others, and provide guidance when they do it unknowingly. Improving communication, soft skills and deep understanding of others is a life-long journey for all of us. However, the chronically offended are less interested in helping others really understand an issue, and they are more focused on handing out verbal/written discipline. Dealing with them does very little to really grow insight; engaging with them is often a time suck.
I’ve dealt with these determined to be offended folks in live training and sometimes run across them in online discussions. The energy they put into starting and fueling an argument, usually when I am simultaneously trying to deescalate and understand them, is mind blowing. As the cliché says…they are spoiling for a fight. So, what can we do to minimize our negative interactions with these people AND avoid becoming one of the chronically offended?
- Start every new communication with the supposition that the other person means you no harm and is doing the best they possibly can at the moment. There’s always plenty of time to adjust your opinion of them later.
- Make continued efforts to improve your own communication skills and efforts to understand the diversity of the world around you priorities in life.
- Resist the urge to engage in an online fight, especially with people you’ve never met face-to-face. You’ll find yourself wasting endless hours typing “if you only knew me” and trying to explain your point of view to someone who is determined to publicly punish you for some perceived offense.
- Gently, firmly and politely disengage from chronically offended people. Social media offers all kinds of nifty tools to block or ignore people who will waste your time being angry. In your off line networks it can be just as simple as not extending or responding to invitations to engage with these malcontents.
There is such a thing as righteous anger. The world would never have changed for the better had we collectively ignored the fiery words of activists. But there’s a difference between a bold call to action and whining to make you feel better. You cannot be an agent of change if all your time is spent taking offense.