Evidently one of my attempts at humor has offended someone (surprise, surprise). Seems that an acronym I was using to draw attention to a program — and I knew going in it was just a ploy for attention — drew the ire of a politically correct reader. Doesn’t matter that movies have used the term I used in their titles, people have given awards with it, and I used it as an acronym to stand for something completely different. The context — assuming it was read by someone with any command of the English language and a sense of humor that even registers — had NOTHING to do with the term in question. I’ve had HUNDREDS of positive comments saying how funny and refreshing it was. The term did not single out any specific group, person, nationality, or race, nor did it dance anywhere close to impropriety. And still…I got a forwarded forwarded forwarded email (with all the names blanked out, of course) from someone who was “offended” by my use of a stereotype. Even though my name and address were clearly posted on the missive, they managed to raise their awareness through several chains of power before it got to me. They even quoted Webster’s, taking the time to look in a dictionary but apparently not taking the time to read more than the title of the communication I had produced. They found a way to correlate my apparent lack of respect for human dignity with another piece of unrelated work and commented that it was “ironic” I was aware of “respect”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I laughed. And tried to figure out a reason why I should care.I determined that most any one can take offense to most any thing. And I also determined that if they weren’t willing to use their real name, use a reasonable channel of feedback, and don’t bother to even read the item that is supposedly offensive, I probably shouldn’t lose any sleep over the event, which I won’t (but then, I don’t lose sleep over much of anything — I like sleep waaaay too much).But I also reflected again that my typical method of dealing with everything (I have joked with my wife that my love language is sarcasm) isn’t necessarily the way many people want to be dealt with. And that’s a communication problem. Because it doesn’t matter how I want to deal with anything; it matters only how those how are being dealt with are being dealt with. If this message had been anything other than a ploy for attention (a sales call, an instructive message, a need for information, a response to a request for same, …) then offending the intended audience will most certainly cause a negative response that is not desired. For this case, I have to just realize that some people cannot accept humor, will be offended, and will look for ways to make a stink about things. But that is not a blanket excuse for behavior in every case.
Regardless of your tolerance or affinity for offense, humor, cliche, tact, or detail, your message should take your audience’s tolerance into account.