Monday, March 7, 2011

Do you feel offended?

"Just because you are offended doesn't mean you are right" - Ricky Gervais

When I heard what Ricky said it made me reflect on my own experiences.  I have been accused of offending people through what I have said or written about, and I have informed others that they have offended me.  When people say the words “you offended me”, I fear that some feel that that this a just argument and whatever was said or done should be taken back and be apologized for. 

If this is true, what if by being offended you have offended someone else.  Now who is right?  We need to start looking at why one feels offended or attacked by a statement or action.  When you read something and your first reaction is one of insult or disgust, I encourage you first ask yourself “Is what is being said true or false?”

If the statement or action is one that should not have been taken in the first place, you need to address the person directly.  I encourage the dialogue to not start with “You offended me when….”, but instead “I disagree with….. because …..”  This should create a dialogue, discussion or a debate between two people that could end up creating new ideas that neither person thought of.

If you agree with the statement or action and still feel offended, then you need to reflect on your actions and ideas.  I remember, when I first started teaching, a person in my staff room criticizing a certain aspect of teaching that I modeled daily.  Even though I agree with the criticism of the action, I felt truly attacked.  It was not until I realized that this person was not insulting me but the action, that I could truly embrace the needed change of my teaching style.  After some thought, I tweaked my pedagogy and noticed an improvement in my classes.

Debate and disagreement are not negative words.  If you put any two people in the same room together, there will always be something they disagree on.  Does this mean, one person is better than the other, or one person is more right than the other?  Not at all!

When I first created a twitter account and read the posts on #mathchat, #edchat, and #edreform I usually logged off with a sour taste in my mouth.  There were copious amounts of tweets that forced me to challenge what I would call “regular” teaching.  These tweets were not directed at me, but I still felt as if the people tweeting were purposely trying to offend the “traditional” teacher.  I decided to embrace these new ideas and truly can say I have never looked back since.

Here is what I have I learned:

·         A defense in an argument should never be “Well, you offended me so that means you need to stop saying what you are saying”.  Just because you are offended, doesn’t automatically discredit the statement or action.  We need to start having discussions with people that disagree with us, or else how do you ever hear from the other side of the argument?

·         If you offend someone, that doesn’t mean what you said was wrong.  Doesn’t mean it was right either.  Reflect on what you said and look at it from another perspective.


  1. In my training to be an instructional coach, it was stressed that "unsolicited advice is an insult." My immediate reaction was, but what if I have something that the teacher needs to hear to improve. The response of the trainer was (essentially) that the teacher being coached would not hear this important information unless they were ready for it. If they weren't ready and I offered it anyway, then chances are it would be ignored (at best) or lead to offense and broken professional relationships (at worst).

    This does not mean that as a coach I avoid difficult conversations. It means that I build relationships that can withstand difficult conversations and that result in growth by both parties. The fact is, those times when I have something I need to share are often when I have the most to learn.

    My two cents. I recognize I could be wrong.

    PS: I assumed that a blank comment box was an invitation for feedback. If I was wrong, I apologize for any offense. =)

  2. Oh David, you offended me.....haha...Thanks for your input!

  3. Being offended and being in disagreement are totally different situations.

    Integrative thinking is good, offensive anything is bad. I have stated that debates should be won by dominant ideas, not by dominant people. People offend; ideas just are.

    A growing number of "edulebrities" seem to have a compulsion to "offend"... to tweak the argument de'jour- not cool. I have time for opposing ideas, but none for intentionally antagonistic, oppositional(offensive) people.

  4. This post brought to mind a few lines from Robert Frost's Mending Wall:

    Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offense.
    Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
    That wants it down.

    Not sure what that adds to this line of discussion, but there it is. Maybe in addition to looking at why one feels offended, it's worth considering what 'being offended' actually is.

    Also, in a binary world, isn't defense the opposite of offense? I agree with what you've said here, and I feel that in the sprit of collaboration (or as I call it: life), we have to look past the idea that our experiences can be divided so simply into two parts: agree/attack, right/wrong, true/false. Otherwise, it seems like we're creating walls in a place where they shouldn't exist: Twitter, for example, and schools.

    Metaphorical walls, I mean. Structurally, I think schools do need walls.