Have you ever seen one of those passive-aggressive Facebook fights? You know the kind. It’s where one of your friends does something offensive, then another one of your friends responds. Neither of them talk directly to each other. They just post vague status updates about the supposed infractions of the other person.
It turns into this ridiculous mixture of horrible and hilarious. The two people think they’re justified. Everyone else thinks they’re pathetic.
Fact: It’s Not About You
This week in the 631 newsletter (sign up using the box at the top of this page), we talked about how easy it is to offend other people. Especially with such easy access to large spread social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
If someone does something you don’t like, within a matter of minutes, thousands of people know about it. And the great part is that you don’t have to justify any of your accusations. You can leave out all the details that make you look bad and selectively enhance the parts that make you look good. Every story is spun in a way to make it look like the world is going to hell in a handbasket while simultaneously no one is responsible.
I call bullshit.
If you offend someone, you are responsible. It doesn’t matter if you feel justified.
When you react to something someone else did, you are accountable for your response. It doesn’t matter what the other person did.
Most of the time they don’t even realize they’ve done something to offend you – let alone take the extra step to correct it. Then because you feel so put out by their misdeeds the go-to response is to be angry and demand an apology, instead of to educate them on why their actions were so misguided in the first place.
That’s a problem.
Responding with anger and demanding an apology only serves to push the offending party further away. Isn’t that the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve?
When did apologies become something that someone else gets to demand of you anyway?
I looked up the definition this week. Guess what I found?
Turns out it’s something you give when you acknowledge (regretfully) that you hurt someone else. It’s not something you give in penance of some arbitrary offense. And it’s not something that you say just to get the social media rats off your back.
Saying “you owe me an apology” is like telling your 3-year old to say she’s sorry for hitting her sister. She might say it – but that doesn’t mean she means it.
By definition, it’s something you do when you genuinely feel sorry and you want the other person to know. It’s there to make the offending party feel better – not the other way around. So stop demanding apologies all the time.
What To Do Instead
If you want someone to stop doing the thing that hurt your feelings you have to educate them. It’s not acceptable to say, “you hurt my feelings, you owe me an apology” and then walk away pissed. That doesn’t make you any better than the offender.
As the person who was hurt, it is your responsibility to tell the other person why you are angry. You might be thinking, “well, they should have known better”. And maybe they should have.
But they didn’t.
When you refuse to tell them why you’re upset, you are allowing them to go out and offend someone else in the exact same way. You cannot expect them to seek out why you’re angry. Why would they?
You just shunned them for their actions, refused to tell them why you’re upset, and then shared your frustrations with the world.
The offending party is embarrassed, frustrated, ashamed, and just as angry as you are.
Think about it.
Has anyone ever publicly shamed you? How did that make you feel? Were you ready to run out and find out what you should have done instead? Did you even understand why you were shamed in the first place?
What if they had come to you privately and said, “Hey, when you did ______, it hurt my feelings because _______. Next time, I would like you to ________.”
Would you be more open to their position?
Even if I didn’t agree with them completely, their honest feedback would make me feel like it was okay to ask questions. And maybe, their willingness to talk would bring about that heartfelt apology they were looking for.
That doesn’t mean they are full of hate. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about your feelings. And it doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to listen to your position.
It means they don’t agree with you.
The only thing you can do is educate them about why you’re upset and tell them what you would like instead. Do not reciprocate. Do not spread your anger on Facebook. Don’t call the news station.
The Golden Rule says, “Treat others the way you want to be treated” not, “Treat others the way you want to be treated as long as they do it first.”
If you do this, your words and actions will help them see why they are wrong and it will bring about the change you are seeking.
And isn’t that the point?