Should ‘Pissing People Off’ Provide a Point of Pride?

By Jason Menard

Contrary to what some people may say, if you’re not pissing someone off, then you may, in fact, be doing it absolutely right.

On a daily basis, in one form or another, I’ll see a variation or two of the old, “If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re doing it wrong” adage. It’s a great statement that allows us to embrace our inner counter-culture punk and lets us proclaim that we’re proud to rage against the machine! We are not part of the blindly following masses; we’ve been roused from our social catatonia and stand apart from the system.

It’s all very dramatic. It’s also pretty much a load of bunk.

Personally, I don’t ever want to piss anyone off with my commentary. If it happens, then so be it, but it’s rarely intentional on my part. In fact, in many cases if I’ve pissed someone off then I haven’t done my job well enough.

One of the great challenges in writing is to harness emotion, as opposed to being consumed by it. One must figure out how to use emotion to fuel the writing process without letting emotion overwhelm it? I mean, it’s easy to get involved in a so-called flame war and lob incendiary comments back and forth over the Internet. The true challenge is to craft a response that, even if the reader disagrees with it, earns respect.

I think it’s what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. The ability to craft a comment that can be respected from all sides is what separates those who are content to just blog from those who want to be part of effective social commentary.

We live in polarizing times and passion has become an excuse for all sorts of behaviours. The problem is that once the blood starts boiling, the ears stop working. That ringing in your ears when blood pressure rises tends to drown out the ability to listen. And that’s when discussion and debate devolve into shouting matches.

There is little value in that type of debate. The true value is in someone clearly and concisely outlining their position and providing supportive information to back up their beliefs. If you can do that using plain speech, even better! You want to let your idea shine, not the quality of your vocabulary or your ability to verbally filibuster your opponent into submission.

Often people reach for that, “if you’re not making someone angry, you’re doing it wrong,” comment as a representation of being counter to the status quo. And it does work in journalism – if you’re breaking stories, often ones that illustrate less-than-savoury activities, then you are going to upset some people. But it’s not the content that’s upsetting; it’s the fact that they’ve been caught.

When it comes to sharing an opinion or presenting a case, ideally emotion should play a minor role. Facts, proof, and solid arguments should be the driving forces.

Now, we all know that people have thinner skin than they’d like to admit. People like to talk tough about not caring, but in reality, everyone wants to have their ideas respected and appreciated. There’s nothing wrong with that – but it also explains why so many people get their backs up when confronted with a counter argument.

There are also those who, no matter how well reasoned or informed an argument may be, will be upset. They are the serial complainers; the chronically indignant. And they can’t help but fire off a nasty response – it’s merely a reflex.

But I’d like to think the majority of people are interested in learning. Most people want to get to the heart of an issue and become fully informed about it. Then, when they choose to form an opinion on a subject, they do so built upon a solid foundation of facts and information.

Another old adage is this: “attack the idea; not the person.” By doing so, and backing up those attacks with sound logic, evidence, and proof, then there’s really no reason for anyone to get pissed off. And for those interested in trying to make a difference or influence an argument, shouldn’t that be the goal each and every time?

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3 thoughts on “Should ‘Pissing People Off’ Provide a Point of Pride?

  1. clotildajamcracker

    Well I think that’s just a load of crap if you ask me. You just made that up and you can’t even prove it! Let me guess. You probably have piercings and tattoos all over your body. You’ve just totally pissed me off. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. Ha!

    Reply
    1. Jay Menard Post author

      I gathered that. And you’re waaayy off on the tattoos! Hell, I can’t swallow the Kool-Aid long enough to sign up for a political party, how the hell can I commit to something to represent me on my skin permanently???

      Reply

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