Hey Bro – you’re being insensitive
Hey Bro. We gotta talk.
You were being kinda insensitive just there. But it’s all good – we can totally get through this. It’s gonna be fine.
Before we get to the part where it’s fine, though, I want to address the objections I see queuing behind your eyes. Let’s roll.
But I didn’t mean it like that!
That’s cool. I understand that. I believe you because I don’t think you would intentionally make someone that uncomfortable.
The point is, though, you did make someone uncomfortable. Without knowing why. Nothing more is meant by “insensitivity.” You are simply absent the configuration of social senses that would have otherwise averted this confrontation.
This is not a value judgment. This is just the human condition. Everyone’s set up just a little differently.
But I’m not a *BLANK*-ist!
I should hope not! That’s not a very nice thing to be.
It could very well be, though, that a position you espouse or a remark you’ve made has some implications that feel quite *BLANK*-ist to someone around you.
If this is surprising, good! You’ve discovered a whole new slice of the human condition you know absolutely nothing about.
Maybe it would be useful to learn more about what motivates this surprising perspective.
But what about my feelings?
Bro – feel what you feel. It’s pretty upsetting to find yourself in a position where your actions have consequences that you had not considered.
You should be okay with that. Shit’s complicated.
But part of taking action is taking responsibility for consequences. Your speech has, upon exiting your mouth, interacted with other human systems and generated output uniquely meaningful to those systems. If these humans are part of your community, you will be affected by the results of your words.
Your counterparts are equally responsible for their words, but you were talking, and we’re going to focus on that first.
But they’re just being too sensitive!
Bro. You know what?
That’s the truest thing you’ll say all year.
I bet if we asked them, there’d be days where they would pay any amount of money for this shit just not to hurt anymore.
But a lot of the time, the reason it hurts?
It’s not fucking fair. And it’s not fucking stopping.
Now, I know you’ve been there. Everyone has been pinned against the wall by something that feels completely unjust. That’s a special kind of rage. It burns pure and white, then leaves you cold and emptied out.
What if that kept happening?
Acknowledging pain in a public way is no fun for anyone. It’s not done lightly and it takes some courage. These feelings aren’t there to inconvenience you.
But it was just a joke!
Bad news on that front… That might make it worse.
See, again, you’ve bumped up against something that hurts. And you didn’t even know it was there.
Now, there’s humor to be found in pain, I would be the first to agree. But if you don’t even have that pain on your map, you’re much likelier to further it than find the laugh.
But I don’t care if what I said was hurtful to someone!
Wow. Really? I don’t think you really mean that.
I have a hunch that even if you did, you’d hardly want to be quoted on it during an interview or on a date.
If it’s true that you’re comfortable dismissing the consequences of your words, I suppose that’s your right. But it will be the right of others to dismiss you from conversations or spaces built to respect the sensitivities at play.
But I’m… ashamed that I hurt someone.
That’s a hard feeling, Bro. I know.
You know why it’s so hard? I bet someone hurt you once, too. I mean that one time. Remember? The really bad one.
Remember how deep it stung? Remember how lonely you felt? Remember the ache as you escaped somewhere quiet and did everything you could not to cry?
You don’t want to be on the hook for that kind of hurt. You don’t want other people to think you’d ever cause that.
But you don’t have to feel shame because it doesn’t have to end like this. You have the chance to be very brave and very impressive before your community. But there’s one thing you have to understand.
This doesn’t end by persuading a jury.
This isn’t a thing where you cite evidence, call character witnesses or give testimony. You cannot persuade someone out of their hurt.
There’s a way out of this. A vigorous retconning of your conversation isn’t it.
So what do?
Bro, this part is really straightforward.
I don’t understand the full story of what made this hurtful to you. Either way, it was and I’m sorry.
Say it your way, but say no more than this for the moment. Bam. Done. Mouth zipped until your companion responds. You may be shocked by the gratitude expressed at your acknowledgement. You may be shocked instead by additional frustration.
Either way, you have stopped boring a hole in the soft tissue of someone else’s pain.
If your counterpart responds with civility, you may find a great opportunity to learn about their story. Explore that dialogue to your mutual comfort. That said, your graceful apology doesn’t entitle you to a full deposition on the factors that triggered this confrontation. Enjoy a moment of perspective if it’s offered. If not, you’re done.
You have a new data point – or several – about how your world differs from others’. You have clarified your good intent without negating the very real pain at the center of the problem.
Harder than it looks, Bro.