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No Offense, But...

Blasphemy I've always been curious about what offends people.  It seems the past year has had a lot of posturing from people in both parties who are "mortally offended" by an innocent comment made by another person.  Take last night's State of the Union Address... the talking heads from both sides are dissecting and reacting and whining.  And don't even get me started about the cast of The View.  Those "ladies" can get offended by a speck of dust.

I've found in office politics, many people CHOOSE to get offended by something.  And thus begins the lobs of accusations, innuendo, and counter-insults.  I'm curious how many office politics conflicts would be avoided if we just let some things slide.  You heard me.  Don't tattle to the boss.  Don't file a report with HR.  Don't send of a scathing email CC-ing and BCC-ing 50 million others.  Just ignore it and let it slide.  Even better, just laugh it off.  Yes, if somebody is doing something that is truly WRONG (i.e., directly targeted at an individual or violation of company policy or HR regulations or illegal), then they should be called on it.  However, if someone "overhears" a comment or sees something they just don't like, can it be ... well... just dropped?

Maybe there's just too much drama in the world already and what we really need is to develop a sense of humor and laugh more.  Then we might actually get more accomplished in the long run.

Your thoughts?


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Robert Hruzek

I think you make a great point about our litigiously-inclined society. Many times, ya gotta just remember the one word solution: lettigo!

On the other hand, there's times when it's important to dissect every word, gesture or nuance. Unfortunately, politics (unlike the office politics you typically deal with) is one of 'em. Sad, but true. Unfortunately, there's way too much at stake to let 'em slide.

Timothy Johnson

I agree with you, Robert. But the criteria for whether we choose to do that dissection is simple: 1) do we have a stake in it personally; 2) can we actually change it; and 3) is it wrong or just different from our perceptual frame?

There's a micro- vs. macro-economics of behavior at stake here, and I think a lot of people talk and react just for the sake of talking and reacting rather than actually making a positive change.

Robert Hruzek

Unfortunately, the polarization of the political arena has indeed caused that, Tim. That's where we, as responsible individuals, need to actually, y'know, DO something!

Timothy Johnson

Agree completely. Regarding my comment on The View... would be interesting if those so-called journalists actually got off their tails and DID more about the things they're constantly whining about and criticizing.

The thing I've been intrigued by and impressed with the Obama administration is his apparent desire to lead from the middle. And the reaction of both sides has been depressing... rather than embrace a spirit of unity, both the Democrats AND Republicans just attack him more.

Am I missing something?

Robert Hruzek

Unfortunately, I don't think you are.

But on the other hand, I think there's good reason to dissect what he says, since we're talking about a radical change in policy - and (IMHO) NOT for the strategic good.

I'd much rather these changes be openly debated rather than rammed down our throats. Especially since many of the ones I know about have already been tried and have failed miserably - not just here but in other countries as well.

Timothy Johnson

Economically speaking, I agree. I'm not a big fan of the bail-out stimulus as I don't think it was well-thought out.

My point is... we're stuck with it, so how can we as individuals make it work rather than just sit back and watch it fail and then thumb our noses in an "I told ya so" fashion?

With hundreds of billions just pumped into the economy, certainly there must be SOME opportunity out there for entrepreneurs and small business owners to do something positive.

National politics aside, I'm curious how we as individuals can turn around other areas in life and business and make them something positive as well.

Robert Hruzek

Gotta disagree with the idea we're "stuck with it", Tim. If enough of us get off our duffs and make big enough waves, it'll get called into question. It's worked before and can work again, no matter how heavy-handed the practice.

It works in the micro- as well as the macro-, too. Office politics are no different in practice. They can be overcome as well when good people stand up and say, "I won't take it anymore!"

I think the key is an active mindset rather than a dismissive one.

Timothy Johnson

I think we're both saying the same thing, Robert. A lot of it has to do with our "circle of influence"

In national politics, the stimulus bill has passed the hundreds of billions will be on their way to their happy little destinations. The question is, what to do with them and how to hold people and organizations and states accountable. Personally, I have my own stimulus plan ideas but that's best discussed in person over a couple of drinks (pick your poison). I don't mean to sound fatalistic over the Obama stimulus package, but I think mob mentality is reining as people become more desparate for SOMETHING... ANYTHING to happen (i.e., grasping at straws)... hence, it becomes more difficult for clearer minds to prevail. I was disappointed that Obama let so much pork go through the bill. I really hoped there would be more laser focus on what was deemed important.

In office politics, the circle of influence is a little tighter and so more can be done more quickly to reign in bad behavior. The point of my post (yeah, I'm circling back to it finally) is whether we SHOULD decide to react to others' bad behavior. Are we just chasing our tails or is the bad behavior really worth reacting to?

But regardless, this conversation with you has been a fun romp (as conversations with you usually are).

I think the decision to react or let it slide is going to be a personal one based on comfort with conflict, comfort with the status quo, and overall values/beliefs/paradigms.

Robert Hruzek

OK; I'll agree with you on that one, Tim. There does come a time and place to react - sometimes. But as in all things, moderation and wisdom are the key elements, without which you'll likely go down in flames!

Thanks for stimulatin' the ol' little gray cells, Tim!

Timothy Johnson

My pleasure, Robert... and thank you for the continued conversation... haven't had a blogospheric discussion this stimulating in ages.

(And just think... we have two different opinions on some issues and neither of us got offended by the other... go figure.)

Robert Hruzek

Amazing how that can work, isn't it? (Tip o' the hat to ya!)

And just for fun, I just Tweeted this post - maybe someone else might want to chime in?

Amy Mahn

I'm just putting my two cents in at Robert's prompting, and I hope I don't step on any toes while I'm here.
I have found, in my experience, that people feel as if they are entitled to get offended at any little thing. I think free speech being what it is, it's to be expected that someone somewhere is going to say something that puts you off your feed, so to speak. But by its very nature, that same right to speak freely makes people feel as if they are almost required to let you know when you've said something that upset them. As wonderful as the idea of letting it go may be, the majority of people have the "if he can say that, then I can say this" philosophy.
We are not only a litigious society, we are also a retaliatory one, and until that changes one way or the other, I can't see many people accepting the zen theory of "get over it."

Timothy Johnson

No toes stepped on here Amy... and thanks for being brave enough to venture into a conversation between a Texan and an Iowan.

Your point is well taken, and I think it does have to circle around to personal choice. I played a clip from Jurassic Park for my students this past weekend, where the mathematician makes the comment "You spent so much time figuring out if you could, you didn't stop to think about whether you should" - sigh - if only we took that same approach to our reactions to other people... yes, we CAN be offended to just about anything... the question is whether we SHOULD be offended.

I think I offend more people because I choose to find the humor in the absurd rather than the offense.

BTW, (at the risk of offending my uptight and narrow-minded Judeo-Christian friends) loved the Zen reference.

Amy Mahn

Ha! I love the Iowan/Texan thing. I'm from Wisconsin farm country myself, so you might question whether it's bravery or just stupidity. :)

I agree that choosing to avoid taking offense to something is the ultimate goal, and in a perfect world that would be the case. The point I was trying to make (and maybe I'll work my way around to it sometime this week) is that there will always be an issue with rights. Namely, if so-and-so has the right to say something mean/nasty/snarky about me or something I feel strongly about, why should I not have the right to take offense or retaliate. Now before I'm hog tied and branded for that, I'm not saying that it is MY particular viewpoint, but I can see how many folks would take that stance. Why do they get to be insulting or rude to me and I can't bite back any way I see fit?

That's where my Zen comment comes into play. In an ideal situation, yes, we would all refrain from taking the low road, but we all know this world is far from ideal. Amicable solutions are not our strong point as a society, and as much as I'd like to see it otherwise, I don't foresee that changing anytime soon. Call me a cynic, but there it is.

Timothy Johnson

Amy - I shall call you neither stupid nor cynical. Realist is a better term.

I think it comes down to a balance between rights (which our entitlement society embraces wholeheartedly) and responsibility (which isn't as "popular"). Just because we CAN do something doesn't mean we SHOULD do it.

You're right, though. I wish my views on taking the high road weren't so stinkin' Utopian, but it would be nice if this post made or two people stop and think BEFORE they reacted to another's boneheadedness.

Great thoughts! OK, we have representation from Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin... only 47 more states to go to weigh in on this discussion.

Amy Mahn

Love the Utopian comment - it actually reminds me a little of The Matrix. (Now my die hard geekdom comes to light.) They had to re-write the program because the shiny happy utopian society that they tried to create kept getting rejected by the humans. Maybe we're just hardwired to need struggle and angst.

It would certainly explain a lot about politics.

And realist? That's actually the best compliment I've gotten in a long while. Thank you!

Mike Wagner

Whenever I came to my mother complaining about one of my brothers her standard answer was, "Just ignore it...".

When you and my mom agree something has to be right!

Keep creating...work that matters,

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