Last weekend, I was in a position where I tried to do something with good intentions, but everything went awry. For the sake of this being in the blogosphere, I'm going to keep most details about the situation vague, but for all intents and purposes, I was having a conversation with someone in my personal life, and they said something offensive. They didn't find anything wrong with what they said, but I immediately reacted defensively. I got angry with them, and shockingly stated: "don't say that word." The person was taken aback, we got into an awkward squabble, and the physical conversation was never really resolved.
In the following days, we communicated digitally in which they apologized, but also expressed concern with how I went about correcting them. The truth is, during the conversation, I was shocked that I immediately reacted with anger to the person. The word from them just kinda slipped out, but I immediately put them on blast and may have potentially embarrassed them. I apologized for my delivery, they apologized for their offensive statement, and I think (or at least hope) that things will go back to normal. The problem is, that after the situation, I immediately regretted how I spoke to the person. Even though what they said was not nice and needed to be addressed, the shock of what they said just immediately took me aback that the only thing I thought of doing was reacting in anger. The whole situation just reminded me about how while it is important to call out offensive language when you hear it, the delivery is equally important so that everyone understands the level of respect that goes into having a difficult conversation such as these.
I failed to take into account that this person slipped up and said something offensive, but that their mistake does not make them a horrible person. I didn't think before I considered what would be the best way to tell this person that what they said was not okay, and my response potentially made the situation worse. We ended up arguing about it for some time, and I think both parties were just mentally exhausted afterwards. While we did reconcile, I think the overthinking side of me wanted to ruminate about my delivery and all of the other ways I could have approached the situation. I ended up regretting that I said anything at all. My OCD was telling me that it would have been better to just not say anything and let the person continue thinking that such language is okay, rather than just finding another way to approach the situation. I began considering if I was in the wrong, if this person has every right to feel angry with me because of how I put them on blast. I did do something wrong. I reacted immediately in anger and that was not the most affective way to handle the situation. On the same level, the other person did something wrong in saying something offensive. We both made mistakes, and because we both apologized for them, I am fairly confident that we will be able to move forward, my OCD aside.
I knew I wanted to chat to the blog about this because this whole conversation just got me thinking about how nobody really prepares you for calling out something offensive, until you actually do it. It could very much be a trial and error process. My first time calling someone out went bad, with the person feeling embarrassed and both of us having to apologize for equal wrongdoing. After the incident, I googled some insight into what I could've done better to handle the situation. Things like bringing up sources, or going to a more secluded area rather than stating it in public, are all helpful tools that I now know for the next time I may be in this situation. While I had every intention of simply telling this person that their language was not okay, it did not turn out right at all. The results were uncomfortable. However, at the same time, I feel like I needed this learning process in order to analyze how I can keep my emotions in check and ensure that the intentions behind my conversations are good.
This rambling post is all just to say that standing up for something you believe in, like calling out offensive language, is hard. It can be difficult to find the right thing to say in the situation, so folks react in anger like I did. This whole process was a learning curve for me. Just as this person made a mistake, I did too, and a mutual apology was needed in this case. Was it uncomfortable to apologize? Yes, because I think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect people who never mess up. I know I do. But, this situation gave me a lot of good practice, and good exposure to the idea that people of all walks of life make mistakes. The apology is the first step, but going forward, everyone needs to make sure that they are doing their part to make the world a more respectful place.
Have you ever been in a situation in which you tried to do something right, and it all went wrong?
Emily @ Paperback Princess