Actually, let me clarify that a bit:
Empathic language is being used to bully other people.
Think about that for a minute.
I’ve talked about this before in some aspects – how “political correctness” has become a slur, and where bigots have been appropriating progressive language in order to silence anti-racists. But it’s gone beyond that.
I’ve seen employees (in places I was visiting) claim that a co-worker’s easy listening CD was “offensive”. While that’s kind of funny (though the accusation was serious), I heard from another employee who was told they were being offensive and threatening for pointing out safety violations.1 The objection was not that the accusation was wrong, but that someone dared point it out.
This doesn’t seem to be limited to any one workplace, or any one sector of society, or any one class of people. Whether you’re talking about a yoga instructor fired because she dared enforce her rules, or a teacher fired for failing too many students (frequently threatened, and has actually happened at least once), or when one has a co-worker complain that it hurt their feelings because one noticed they were breaking rules.
When one violates social norms – whether you are correct in doing so or not – you will experience pushback. I distinctly remember my father telling me that having long hair as a male (in 1990 West Virginia) would cause me problems socially. I remember complaining bitterly about it, and he agreed that it wasn’t fair and wasn’t right. But it was something that I would have to deal with.
There’s a balance that has to be struck here, especially when you’ve entered into someone else’s space. Enter a classroom – even a yoga classroom – and you’re tactility agreeing to the teacher’s rules. Sign up for a college class, and you’re agreeing to be evaluated on the basis of your fulfilling of the rubric.
Using the terms of empathy and emotion in order to excuse your transgressions is still bullying, no matter how many fluffy feel-good words you dress it up in.
1 Worth noting: as per my blog policy, real-life details are frequently obfuscated. http://ideatrash.net/2010/11/it-isnt-you-its-me.html