September 3, 2022

Who decides what's "inappropriate?"

She complained that I said "pee."

Once upon a time, an audience member e-mailed me to say that my language was inappropriate and to demand that I send an apology to the audience of 22 women.

(For context, I was explaining that your attendees need breaks during a long workshop or presentation or they'll be resentful when they have to get up to pee and miss some of your content.)

Also, I didn't say "resentful." I said "pissed off." She was offended by that, too.

If I had known the Ministry of Ladylike and Appropriate Language was going to be at my presentation, I would've...

…still said "pee."

I reviewed the evaluations and had a conversation with the president of the organization, one of my 1:1 clients. I had thoroughly researched the group when I accepted the engagement.

She and I concluded that this was the opinion of one person and not of the entire group. My client wasn't offended and apparently, neither was anyone else.

But it did bring up questions. How exactly can you KNOW what's going to offend someone? WHO decides what's "inappropriate?"

She was offended, but was I offensive?

Ideally, some words, attitudes and behaviors would always be considered universally inappropriate (think hate speech or the most vulgar curse words). And it would be easy to know what would offend people.

But we know for a fact that many people are not in agreement over what even constitutes sexist, racist, ableist, ageist, homophobic or transphobic language.

When I shared with my speaker friends that I had never had a complaint about offending someone, one of my colleagues said,

"You pressed the button...but she already had it installed."

Each of us presents on different topics.

Each of us has a unique personality and way of expressing ourselves.

Each audience is different and full of individuals.

The reactions we hope for vary from topic to topic, from attendee to attendee, from speaker to speaker.

Sometimes we're surprised when the reaction we get isn't the reaction we expected!

P.S. If you think my language was inappropriate, there's no need to share your feedback. I processed this incident years ago.

On The Everything Page you'll find everything you need to build visibility, credibility and influence through engaging presentations that move your participants into action: freebies, low-cost products and courses, and 1:1 coaching!

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