Even though the mass media would have you think this time of year brings out the best in people, my personal experience is that it does exactly the opposite. Everyone is rushed and busy and striving for some kind of perfect holiday, and in being that way, they inevitably wreak havoc on everyone and everything that gets in their way.
I'm not any different.
Take last week at work. We're planning the office party, which happens to be reviving an old tradition -- the gag gift secret Santa. The tradition had been all but extinguished because at various times, feelings had been hurt by insensitive and occasionally inappropriate gifts. But this year, we got the go-ahead to try again -- a probation of sorts. Everyone wants this to work, to keep the tradition from dying out for good.
One of my friends decided to be in charge of the process, but it became clear that he didn't have some of the organizational details down -- such as how participants have to both give and receive gifts, and that it's not "secret" if you are both on the list and making the list. So, in a way that was probably less than diplomatic, I interceded and said that I'd be in charge of the list. Admittedly, the way I went about it was undoubtedly bossy and overbearing, but in my head, I just was trying to help.
I sent an email announcing that I'd be in charge of the list. In a joking way, I referred to it as a "bloodless coup." Another co-worker got offended by my tone and, apparently, the fact that I took over in a bossy manner. So, she cornered me and proceeded to lecture me about how horrible I was. At first I thought she was joking, and then, once I realized that she was, indeed, serious, I got offended by her tone -- which I would later describe as "essentially calling me a bitch without actually using that word." I did, however, understand her point that I might have stepped over the line. So, I apologized to my friend. At the end of the day, I thought it was over and done with.
The next day, the coworker who lectured me came into my office, purportedly to apologize. Of course, she did this by first telling me that we're still friends, then by telling me that she never actually used the word "bitch" to describe my behavior, and third, by telling me how wrong my behavior had been. She repeated the third point four times. The first time, I said, "I got your point. I was offended by your tone yesterday, but I got your point. And I apologized, and it's over now, so let's move on."
The second time, I said, "Alright, I get it, it's done. Can we stop now?"
The third time, I just said, "Can we stop? Please."
When she continued, I said something offensive, taking her lord's name in vain and using a very bad word, one that's not allowed on television. She then said, "Now I'm offended" and stormed out of my office.
Clearly, I shouldn't have gone for the nuclear option. But I was pushed.