Sometimes it’s the speaker’s fault, sometimes it’s the hearers fault, sometimes it’s just pure miscommunication, and sometimes both people are at fault.
I try not to offend people. Being offensive never helps, although it sometimes makes me feel better temporarily! Being rude to others is just selfish and makes you look like a twat, as well as causing damage to relationships.
But where do you draw the line at offending people?
As much as it possible I think it’s good to avoid giving offence. Sometimes it’s done unintentionally, and then it’s right to try to repair the hurt. Other times you don’t even know you’ve offended someone, and that’s pretty much impossible to fix, given that you don’t know you’ve done it! It also doesn’t help when the offended party reacts badly and gets in the way of repairing the relationship, or simply refuses to reconcile. In those cases, you can’t force the other person to repair your relationship, but it’s still right to try.
What I really want to talk about though is another form of offence. I had a conversation with someone last week where the other person got offended. I realised pretty quickly. I spoke very gently and reasonably and, most frustratingly, I was correct. What I said was completely true. The other person however, seemed not to like it being pointed out. I don’t think it’s that they disagreed with me (I don’t think so anyway, and if they do then there’s another issue here!), but I think it’s that they didn’t appreciated me pointing it out.
I don’t want to give away specifics of the conversation for fear of giving away who I’m talking about, so I’m going to remain vague (sorry!).
The most frustrating part of this for me is that I’m right! What I said was completely right. I have always struggled with the balance of being gentle with others when I think I’m right and they’re wrong, and in this case I have no issue with the content of what I said. Sometimes I feel indignant about it. Surely if someone is offended by the truth when it’s presented gently, it’s their problem. Maybe it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t. I don’t know.
I went into the conversation not realising I’d be offensive. I spoke the truth about something that mattered to me (related to something we’d just seen on tv). I spoke kindly and gently. I was still causing offence. I can’t tell if I was wrong. Is the other person wrong here? Maybe. If other people are going to take offence at something simply because they don’t like hearing it, is that their problem or mine? I think the answer is; it depends. In this case, I simply can’t tell. And I hate it.
I think I’ve damaged a friendship without meaning to. I can’t tell who is in the wrong here. Maybe we both are. I hope the friendship isn’t as damaged as I think.