Two experiences in the last 48h have caused me to redesign some of my language and communication patterns in a pretty serious way. I suspect that these are generally applicable and very useful, so I’m sharing!
Before I get into it, take a moment and see what comes to mind when you read the phrases “that made me feel uncomfortable” or “I noticed some discomfort while reading that.”
Okay, turns out that I’d been using phrases like that, and they were totally backfiring, because they communicated something totally different than what I was intending to communicate.
On a mailing list I frequent, someone offhandedly made a remark that was intended to be humorous. I felt uncomfortable reading it, which I shared with the group, along with an explanation for why I consciously endorsed that feeling of discomfort. Fortunately, I edited the subject before replying, because it prompted a massive email thread about (among other things) whether or not it makes sense to be offended by things and whether or not it makes sense to avoid saying things that will make people uncomfortable. And a bit about the content-level topic itself.
Someone else shared that their perception of this conversation was that I was trying to shame the OP for what he had said, to which I responded:
Thanks for the feedback that that was how it looked. I will maintain, as one of the main this-made-me-uncomfortable-sayers, that I was not intending to send any guilt or shame.
However, I’ll drink my own medicine, noting that this whole conversation happened because of person A saying something that was interpreted by person B in an unexpectedly negative way.
So I just did the same thing!