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Dare to care?

Should people take responsibility for the feelings of others in social settings?

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By Ashley Thornhill Hayes (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: June 18, 2014

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Should people take responsibility for the feelings of others in social settings?  Are people who are unaware merely insensitive or just selfish?

I consider myself to be very accepting of people, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation.  Does that mean that I always watch what I say around people that may be offended by a particular joke or comment? Not at all. Do I cringe when others say offensive things in my presence? Absolutely. I feel everyone has a responsibility to at least try and be aware of the feelings of others in social settings, regardless of their own personal feelings. I’ve asked friends and family for their opinions on the matter and have received a wide variety of answers.

Some have discussed social anxiety disorders, some have brought up morals and personal values, and others have simply said people are responsible for their own feelings. Also, the type of social setting can be up for debate — there’s a big difference between how people act around a group of friends versus meeting a stranger for the first time or being in a public venue.

I’ve just recently returned from a four-night trip to Vegas, the city of sin and debauchery, where I became very aware of how unaware people are of their surroundings.  Not only were people drinking and smoking with hopeless abandon, the completely unfiltered language that came out of some people’s mouths amazed me (and I’m not easily shocked). There were several moments during my trip where I thought no way would I ever bring a child to Vegas, regardless of the amount of “family-friendly” activities there might be.

I understand one needs to at least have an idea of what to expect when going to a place like Vegas, but I will never get used to smoke blown in my face or people using racial slurs in their everyday conversation.  People don’t care who is around them or whom they might possibly offend, especially after one-too-many cocktails.

People’s morals and personal beliefs remind me of a recent card game I was introduced to.  The goal of this game called Cards Against Humanity, is to be as offensive, inappropriate, and gross as possible.  The first and most entertaining time I’ve ever played the game was when I met my boyfriend’s extended family.  His grandma is a devout Christian while the rest of us are either not religious or are on the fence regarding our personal beliefs.  Throughout the evening, when a card could be played that related to Christianity and could offend his grandma, it was played, and everyone laughed except her.

Now one would think a person who is easily offended wouldn’t participate in a game like this, but his grandma had no problem playing cards that would offend others  — it was only the cards surrounding Christianity which she had a problem with.  In a situation like this, you need to consider your audience and the people around you.  Close family and friends know which buttons they can push before someone gets truly offended.

People deal with their feelings in all sorts of ways.  There are people who are blissfully unaware of the feelings of others and then there are people who are very aware, but could care less.  I think people are ultimately responsible for putting themselves in positive social settings, but as human beings, we should all try to be in tune with the people who surround us and our environment. A little awareness and compassion can go a long way in this world but ignorance can completely destroy it.

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