Is your conversation offending me? Perhaps I should speak up

(Initial note: Mae has a blog. Let it be known.)

So a recent dispute between C. and Mae has me thinking. (This is a good thing, although there may be some controversy.) Yes, another dangerous thought “thread” has forked off.

The question: should we censor the topics of discussion to avoid possibly offending a friend who refuses to speak up on her discomfort?

(And I’ll add to that that it’s even unknown whether the topic of discussion is offending the woman, or if she’s just tired of the topic being discussed. She just doesn’t speak up.)

For instance: Some woman is Catholic. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that she has stereotypically “Catholic” viewpoints on things–she’s rather conservative, feels that homosexuality condemns its practitioners to hell, and holds an anti-abortion stance.

Now, should her friends avoid discussion of liberal politics, gay rights, and baby killing (I jest, I jest) in order to avoid offending her, since we know her opinions are going to be different than ours?

I’d say no. I may very well be projecting here, but I hope like hell that none of my friends would ever say, “Oh, wait. Let’s change the discussion to bunny rabbits and hot men. We know Lissa isn’t a fan of reparations, and since we are, we aren’t going to talk about it in her presence.”

I am not so easily offended. I want to be challenged. I want to hear others’ opinions on things. It gives me food for thought, even if my opinions ultimately don’t change.

And if we should hit upon a topic where even the mere mention of an opposing opinion is enough to send me into an unpleasantly incoherent tizzy, I will speak up to move conversation to something else. If I choose to sit silently and fidget in my seat, then I am accepting that the conversation will continue until those are still involved with it tire of the topic.

It is no one else’s responsibility to so carefully watch for my comfort. There is a line between making sure that, “Yes, Lissa really did want to go out to coffee tonight rather than work at home,” and, “Let’s not say anything that might go against Lissa’s current grain in thinking.” Mollycoddling, while cute evidence of a mother instinct, I suppose, becomes tiring and wears on everyone.

Even if I don’t feel like being challenged on a particular issue, again, it is my responsibility to either speak up or wait out the conversation.

But then again, I am most likely projecting. Maybe we should watch out for any possible differences in opinion and steer clear of those to avoid potential conflict between friends. See all those “possible”s and “potential”s? If you don’t speak up, no one knows, and everyone is walking on eggshells to avoid deep, thought-provoking discussion. This leaves conversation to mundane topics, and that is one thing that makes my bosom heave with sighs of boredom.

This woman could, however, simply be tired of all the political talk at the coffee table. I know I am. But since C. and Jenn derive pleasure from their conversation, and I don’t have anything better to talk about, I sit and listen, or stare into my drink. I choose not to speak up and to let conversation flow.

Maybe this is a matter of “the desires of the many”. If two out of three people are having a good conversation, it’s (usually) no strain on me to let them get that out, and to sit that round out, for lack of a better phrase. The purpose of the social outings in question is, after all, to relieve some stress. So let them relieve it.

One Comment

  • Luke


    I’m of the opinion that if the person is a friend then it won’t matter one way or the other.

    BUT I am of the opinion that I will not, in the least back away from a topic that I think needs to be discussed just to make someone happy. Furthermore, I’ll cuss and use whatever terminology I wish to get my point across. I have no tolerance for being sensitive because being such is a waste of time. If you can’t handle what I’m saying…go elsewhere.

    I will note that while I feel that…I won’t go out of my way to say something to offend or hurt someone and if you’re really nice I might even be nice back.