I’ve noticed a trend over the past year or so that has gained momentum and doesn’t appear to be slowing. A slew of articles and blog posts have been written with titles that start something like, “Ten Things to Never Say to…” or “Four Questions ______ are Sick of Hearing”.
The blogger in me understands why so many people are writing them; they are wildly popular and fantastic traffic-drivers. In fact, I even wrote one for Scary Mommy last year (Hello Kettle, call me Pot).
The regular woman in me, however, has begun to cringe every time I see another one pop up. It appears our culture is sliding down a steep, icy hill of over-sensitivity.
Everything has become a reason to be offended these days and boy, are we easily offended!
You saw me with my three kids in the grocery store and had the audacity to say I have my hands full? I’m offended.
You’re wondering if we want more kids? How dare you ask such a personal question?
You want to know what I do as a stay-at-home mom? Oooh, you’re asking for it now!
Don’t even try to offer an opinion that differs from mine. Respectful, thoughtful discourse, along with the realization that we can still be friends even if we don’t agree, seems to be a thing of the past. Instead, anyone who dares to share an opinion that doesn’t match that of the listener is quick to be attacked. Apparently the cure for being offended is to offend, as quickly and harshly as possible.
Look, I know that some people purposely stir the pot. Sometimes people say offensive things and they do it with malicious intent. I’m not saying we should let jerks get away with being jerks.
But there’s something else I want to focus on here; something I find a bit alarming.
Since the majority of us try to be decent human beings, we have a desire to be unoffensive, but my greatest fear is that in our striving to be unoffensive in our words, we will choose silence instead.
If we follow all of the advice in those “Never Say These Things” posts, soon we won’t be allowed to say anything at all.
When faced with whether to ask a friend a question that might unintentionally hurt her or back off and mind our own business, we will choose silence. And in so doing, we will choose distance over relationship.
When we run into that overwhelmed mom at the grocery store to whom we can offer a word of encouragement or avert our eyes and walk away, we will choose silence. And in so doing, we will choose separation over connection.
Silence is easy. Words are difficult.
But when faced with a choice between the two, I want to choose the difficult path. I may not do it perfectly, but I hope the person I face will extend enough grace to understand that my intentions are good, even when my words are imperfect.
And when faced with someone else who has chosen the difficult path, I will try my hardest to stop taking everything so personally. I will do my best to understand that she might be a bit unsure of herself, but has still chosen words over silence. I will realize that the person speaking isn’t trying to injure me with her words, but is simply trying to connect.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that the least bit offensive. In fact, in today’s world, it’s actually quite brave.
Steena Hammer says
Shared, shared, shared because this has been bugging me, too. All it does is escalate the insecurity-based mommy wars and internet trolling! I went into mommy blogging to share my journey and beliefs as a mom/woman/mental health advocate, because that’s what being a blogger means to me. I didn’t start just to join a high school reminiscent popularity contest to see who can click-bait and pot stir the best, I already have a 7yo pot stirrer I live with and she’s more than enough for my lifetime; I don’t need grown adults doing the same too!
Thanks Steena! You’re right. It can definitely get high schoolish sometimes!!
Katie Chiavarone says
This is wonderful, I agree 1000%!
Julie S says
Love this! Yes these days we are over sensitive and are quick to jump on the defensive or offensive, when really a bit of thick skin and a deep breath will solve it.
We all need to learn to (forgive me)… “Let it go” 😉
Such a good post and so true. People get far too easily offended these days! I don’t stay silent…but do taper what I say online and with friends because people are just WEIRD!!!
I’m careful about what I say online too and it kind of bugs me that I do it. I shouldn’t have to hide what I think (if I say it in a kind way) because I’m scared of being attacked.
Elaine A. says
I agree that most of it is to “stir the pot” and or get people clicking. I’m not that offended when people ask me if we are having more kids or tell me my hands are “full”.
I also wasn’t offended when I was pregnant with my daughter after two boys and people would be SO glad to hear I was having a girl. Because I was too! LOL!
Haha! Same here Elaine! I was ecstatic when I found out we were having a girl after two boys.
It does seem like the Internet is on overload with these types of posts. Some of them are definitely trying to get people riled up, but I think a lot of bloggers just have nowhere else to vent. From my perspective, the uncomfortable part isn’t a friend asking a personal question or whatever, but a stranger. I assume anyone I know is asking a question out of personal concern/interest. A stranger in the grocery store that I’ll never see again though… that’s weird. I do tend to just smile politely and move on though, not launch into a defense.
That’s the thing though. I think sometimes strangers say things that yes, might seem a little weird or even inappropriate, but I think a lot of times they’re just trying to make conversation or be friendly. I think what you do is the perfect response; just be polite and move on. There’s no need to get defensive and upset by them.
Amen, girlfriend. I don’t even read those posts anymore. Every time I do, I see something *I’ve* said to somebody and I think, “But I totally didn’t mean it that way!” and then I feel bad because apparently asking someone if they’re having more kids, when you’re at a mom’s event playing with a baby talking about having more children, is the wrong thing to say because some list told me I should never ask someone about having more kids. I think we lose context when we throw lists like this together.
But on the other hand? I have no problem with helpful posts telling you nice things TO say to people! 🙂
Good point. I’m terrified to bring up the children question, even if I know they want kids, which is kind of ridiculous when you think about it.
I thought this post was going to be click bait if I’m honest, but I couldn’t resist the title. Good points, well made. I do think some of these don’t say x type posts are quite useful though, namely those that can help you understand a perspective you might not automatically just get. Case in point would be something like what not to say to someone after a miscarriage.
Good post though, thanks.
I’m glad it wasn’t click bait! I agree that a properly written post can be helpful in some situations. I think a lot of it comes down to common sense though (which I realize a lot of people lack!). I’ve heard about people who have lost a child hearing, “At least you have other kids!” People should know better than to say things like that without a list telling them not to.
Loved reading this.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day that she was offended because someone at the grocery store said she had her hands full (as she has two small boys). I was like – Wah? If someone said that to me I would think they really understood how if felt, not take it as an insult. But then I could easily get offended if someone asked me when I am having another baby – happy for you to ask ‘if or do’ but ‘when’ is a little close for comfort. But maybe she wouldn’t be offended by that. It’s hard as we are all different so i try and just be sensitive to people’s feelings, but I am certain that I have still Unintentionally offended someone somewhere!
That’s so true. Since everyone is so different, the only way to be unoffensive is to not say anything. I’ll take my chances 😉
Ayesha Umair says
I love, love, love your blog… I can totally relate to all this. I love my children a lot so I find it hard to imagine how articles like never say so to a child are considered real advice. Have these people ever met a toddler?