Rian wrote:I said I was done talking about the incident, but after reading your post, some more things became clear that are pertinent to the issue in general, so here goes: (and feel free to ignore this if it's just too arcane for you)
But do you think that you should apologize every time someone says they're insulted by something you say, even if you don't think it's insulting? That's what I'm trying to work thru here, with myself more than anything.
And I think this is quite admirable from you, Rian. I respect this show of true cooperation. My answer is that yes, any time you make a statement that another find offensive, you should accept responsibility for that statement and at the very least state that no offense was intended (if it wasn't) and apologize, and perhaps try to discuss what your statement means. If your opinion is still the same, and quite often it will be, I think it is fine to continue to hold that opinion, but to at least acknowledge the offensive nature of it, to own it, that is to say. I think we all likely hold insulting and offensive opinions of others. I think it is disingenuous to claim that an opinion is not offensive when someone is telling you flat out that it is. I can't even count the number of times I've seen this kind of standoff. People just don't always understand the power of their words.
I've always thought that a person should only apologize if they had malicious intent, but they can be sorry to hear of another person's hurt. Do you see the difference? What do you think?
I think that if you truly hurt someone's feelings, intentionally or not, then you already know the answer. Let me put it this way; if you said something in a completely benign way to one of your children and to them it sounded like a hot poker right in their eye and they broke down and cried because of it, would you apologize?
I think part of the problem is who I am - I was an engineer in a highly technical field, and I did extremely well because I was very precise. Maybe part of the problem is that I need to drop some of that in conversations. But I prize truth so highly that it's very difficult for me to do so.
Actually I think you have it backwards, Rian. I think you need to be more precise. I think the problems often arise out of generalized statements that can capture people in a net that you may not have intended. As I said in an earlier post, if you say something general and a room full of people hear it and it has the potential to relate to all of them, but you only meant one of them, you have just insulted all of them whether you meant to or not.
I'm very sorry to have caused you any hurt, Gary. I don't think I (or you, for that matter) should apologize if there was no bad intent, though. Is this being totally anal? I don't know, but I think it's good to think about these things, and that's part of why I value discussion boards like this.
This is an important step in the right direction and I accept your comment because I can see that it is sincere. And I am sincere in saying that I have said nothing with intentional harm to you either, but I'm happy to apologize if I made a stupid blunder with my words. I am always happy to retract a hurtful statement and perhaps explain what led me to that. At the least it may be a learning opportunity.
Anyway, again, I'm sorry if I hurt you.
Again, thank you very much.
Here I'm going to get technical again - sorry, if you don't like it, you can stop talking to me.
1) "If you don't want an escalation and you want to make amends, then you could start by ..."
This is a problem that I see very often here - people will say, of another person, "IF you want such-and-such X, THEN YOU WILL DO such-and-such Y". But that might not be right. They may indeed want such-and-such X very much, but have a different opinion as to what will bring that about - in fact, they might very well think that such-and-such Y has nothing to do with it. So that's one problem that we come across - when one person tells another person that if they want one thing, they'll do another thing.
Well, this is one of those unintentional things I spoke of. I'm certainly not in the business of managing people or policing people. If I do say something like this, it's mean only as a suggestion of one way to deal with it. If you don't like my suggestions, feel free to toss them out with the garbage and forge your own path. So long as the ultimate goal is achieved, it matters little to me how it is achieved. And to be frank, I'd rather you did it your way and not my way because it will be yours and you will own it much better.
2) "... insulting and not constructive"
This, again, is a matter of opinion. I'll deal with the insulting part later, but it seems to be that you're being very vain if you think that you are the judge both of what is constructive coming from you and what is constructive coming from me, and also, what is constructive for the whole board. You're saying flat-out that what I said was not constructive? Why do you think you should have the final word on that?
See, this is how things get out of kilter. I used a single word "constructive" and you drew from that I somehow perceive myself as the final arbiter of that definition. That isn't how I see it at all and I never meant to convey that message. I think it's pretty easy to see where a conversation is going, and in the case of delicate conversations (most of them here), there is a fine balance that can be achieved, yet it is difficult because all parties deeply believe in their position and there is a temptation to drop to a less intellectual level. I think it's also pretty easy to spot when a comment is made that will throw a wrench into that balance, and I think it's always worth hearing when one party says that something offensive and inappropriate has been said. It can lead to a better understanding of both sides. It's like when you have a conversation with your parents or siblings. You know their hot spots and you generally try to maneuver around them when engaging in conversation. You know that if you bring up that uncomfortable issue, you will likely spark a yelling match. This is no different except that no one knows the hot spots here because we aren't family members.
But where does this stop? A person can feel insulted continually; should the other person be continually apologizing? Where is the line drawn?
That's an easy one; it stops when you are willing to accept responsibility for your comments and own them. When you are willing to accept that someone else's perception of what you said doesn't match your own perception and that's OK. You just have to take their word for it.
For about the 5th time, what I said was this: "So yes, it was slightly insulting, but in the sense of "I think you're doing something wrong", not a personal insult." What I mean is that people feel insulted when someone tells them they're doing something wrong, even if it's said politely and it's true. And I think that is vastly different than an intentional personal insult.
This is what I mean by defending one's statements. This kind of defensive posturing is simply not effective no matter how much you want it to be. IOW, you simply cannot explain your way out of it not matter how hard you try.
I agree with you there, but again, what are the other options? We could talk about things we agree with all day long and there won't be problems, but I don't think anyone wants that.
I think the option is to go about your debates as usual, but just be cognizant of what you are saying and don't simply defend yourself when you are faced with someone telling you that you are being offensive. I think that when someone tells you this, you have an opportunity to learn more about them, and possibly even yourself. Rian, I say all these things because I've been on both sides of this fence before. I've been bullied and I've been an unintentional bully. I've had to face the reality that I was unintentionally (yet in a very real way) causing serious emotional harm to a fellow co-worker. I had absolutely no intention of doing harm, and I even thought that what we had going was a brisk and entertaining rivalry. But what he was experiencing was something completely different, something demeaning, something oppressive. When I came to the realization of this (and I didn't do it on my own, btw), it hit me like a ton of bricks; it literally took the wind from me. I was devastated and ashamed. Upon the first opportunity, I asked forgiveness from this fellow. And I can tell you that I have also been that fellow and I received no sort of apology. I had to fight tooth and nail for fairness. Now, I don't mean to be overly dramatic; the situation on this forum is far less severe.