Causing Offense And Social Norms

(Richard Millington) #1

Originally published at:
At one end of the spectrum is the need to make sure no-one is sad, angry, or left out.

At the other end is the need to surprise, challenge, and wow people.

They’re both related.

What delights one group often confuses or offends another. The moment you dumb things down, explain yourself, or self-censor to prevent causing offence is the moment you can’t delight the group anymore.

The people that get confused and offended aren’t your target audience.

Every second you spend defusing anger is a second you can’t spend delighting the group that matters to you. Every time you stop yourself writing something useful to one group because it might confuse (or offend) another is a time you’re not going to produce work that matters.

So get comfortable with causing confusion and perceived offense. Get comfortable saying ‘this might not be the right group for you’. This is part of the process of having a meaningful impact upon the group.

You can’t create new social norms unless you’re willing to challenge existing ones. Those being challenged will resist that change. The most diehard will be offended and get angry. If you sand off your edges to appeal to them, you won’t change anything.

Here’s the thing. The most diehard will be the last to join you regardless of what you do. They’re not your target audience. It’s the people on the edges of social norms who you will pry away first. But to pry them away you will probably offend someone. Get comfortable with that.