During the 1980s I was a young adult. I got my first serious job, got married, bought a house, and had children, many of the major milestones in life and as the youngest of the baby boomers, I anticipated the changes that have taken place in the last 35 years, and recognized early on, either you adapted to living life in a western society or it was going to run you over.
I wasn’t a smoker, but I had friends that were, and even though they were inconvenienced I could understand the reason why they ended up standing under a tree puffing on a cigarette. Like this there were lots of changes that started as recommendations, some were made into laws, and others just got you a dirty look by others around you when you were out in public.
I also remember when little by little, everyone became more circumspect of what you said, and about whom, or around whom. Thinking back, most of the conversation was not offensive, but as the years rolled by, I felt the pressure of knowing that you could find yourself fired or suspended for having offended someone intentionally or worse unintentionally, either way the results were the same.
Nowadays, fear of reprisal has leeched out from the workplace, to just about everywhere. How did this happen? How could the pendulum have swung so far in the other direction, that now you second guess just about every word you’re going to say unless you’re in a group of well known people, and of course not in public?
Many of my clients cite their frustration and stress over what they consider too much emphasis on being politically correct. They feel like it’s just better to shut up, which unfortunately hinders so many positive connections we can make with other human beings. They blame the atmosphere of paranoia that's found in many work environments with the distaste they now have for a job they use to enjoy.
It’s like the insurance company that made the tongue in cheek commercial a couple of years ago by using a cavemen (as in extinct) in order to avoid offending anyone, and of course they were, which exemplifies the modern fears, that there’s always someone whose sensibilities you’re going to tread on.
Encouraging respect among people, cultures, races, ethnicities, gender, etc should not be built on the back of fear and retribution. Somewhere along the way common sense was tossed out the window, and it’s no wonder that the 1980s have made a comeback with that golden patina which overlooks the problems society experienced at that time.