Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

How to Choose to Not Be Offended

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Has anyone ever offended you?

Reasons to find offense surround us. Bosses. Employees. Presidential candidates. Religions. Kentucky Wildcat fans.

Offense seems to be an obligation. A natural response to someone else. When we see things that we do not like, we feel we have no choice but to become upset. And express it adamantly.

We view our reponse as outside of our hands. We are only reacting to others.

Like most thing, however, offense is really an issue of the self. It has nothing to do with the person who is offending you and everything to do with you.

Yes, some people say and do things that may seem ridiculous to you. But have you ever thought about how you say and do things that are ridiculous to others.

The issue of being offended has to do with how we choose to respond.

In the same way that we choose to be offended, we can also choose to not be offended, which has several advantages.

  • We can listen to and understand others better.
  • We increase our opportunities to learn.
  • We can more easily resolve conflict.
  • We grow our ability to influence the world around us.

Once you choose to respond in offense, your ability to make a difference will be negligible. But if you choose to not be offended, then you have taken the first step towards influence.

photo by Kristina Alexanderson (Creative Commons)

Making this choice, however, is difficult. Here are a five ways to help you change how you respond.

1. Find value in every person. You have to believe that every person in the world has intrinsic value, and then look for it. Understand that their perspective is unique to them, and that is is beneficial. Seek what is helpful instead of being focused on what you find offensive.

Always be asking what they can teach you. Search for what you can learn. You will be amazed at what you find.

2. Learn to listen. Most of us don’t. We listen to people that we agree with because we already like what they are saying. but we rarely listen to anyone else. The only way to understand another person is to hear what they have to say. To listen with the goal of understanding, not arguing.

If someone is offending you, then it is a good time to stop talking and start listening. If nothing else, you are less likely to say something you would regret.

3. Try something new. Like strange food, the reason we don’t like something different is only because we haven’t tried it. Ignorance leads to fear. Fear leads to being offended. Start with something simple like food or a cultural experience. If you feel courageous enough, switch to CNN or Fox News, depending on your political persuasion.

Develop a spirit of courage and adventure. The only way to understand a different perspective is to try it.

4. Apologize. One of the main reasons we are so easily offended is pride. The most humbling thing you can do is apologize when you are wrong. We are all wrong at some point. When it is your turn, do something beneficial about it. Apologize. It will force you to humble yourself and will speak volumes to the other person.

Today, find someone you have offended and apologize to them.

5. Be a friend. Don’t feel that is it your obligation to change people. Being a friend is about loving them where they are. Friends encourage and help. They find what a person needs and then seek to help meet those needs. No strings attached.

The people who are in the best position to influence us, are these true friends.

Being offended is really a selfish way to treat people. It is a response focused not on the other person, but only on ourselves. It is about what we want them to be. It is about our desire to change them.

The only person in this world that you can change is you.

The only way to remove offense from your life is to choose to respond differently.

Are you easily offended? What have you found that helps you choose otherwise?

Help all of us choose better by sharing your ideas in the comments.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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  • Anonymous

    definitely will be sharing this.  we can all have challenges in this area at times.  thanks for deciding to write daily jeremy!

    Go Win!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I am an expert at being offended, so it’s good to talk about what helps. I agree about winning.

      • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

        Well said Jeremy, I also am an expert at being offended–initially at least–until I take time to remember that it’s not about me.  Unless I consciously make that step, it easy to let others dictate your emotions, intentionally or otherwise.

        • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

          Great point, Cole.

          • Oneis Wenda

            Thanks for this article now I realize that being offended because being selfish. Learn to love anyway.

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    Consider that the offender might just be in a LOUSY mood. Take some time and listen to them. Their child could be sick. Their mom might have cancer.  Take a couple steps back and then you probably can see more of what is going on in their life. Some people are rude just to be rude, but I think that is actually pretty rare. Often there is an underlying cause for why others are hurtful. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Great thoughts, Jim. You just don’t know what is going on. If you stop and listen, you might even find a way to encourage people.

      • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

        Thanks. I totally agree. I think the key is to just be open to the idea that EACH of us has a story to tell and then listening.

  • Talia

    love this concept.  one of the things one of our pastors teaches on is – learning to be unoffendable.   one of the best things i think a person can learn.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I like the way your pastor puts it. unoffendable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527087281 Seth Barnes

    Excellent post, Jeremy. Thanks for the practical advice on an important subject.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks, Seth.

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  • http://www.joyfilleddays.com/ Sarah Beals

    Loved this article. Very clearly articulated and thoughtful. I have to remind myself all of the time that I am only responsible for me and my reactions, thank God! :)

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It’s easier to put the blame elsewhere, but it doesn’t affect the only problem you can change. Thanks, Sarah.

  • bamabrasileira

    these things are kinda useless in the real world. it is why you have so many supposedly god fearing people who have a big old sexually/emotionally/spiritually repressed black hole living in the center of them. it is never very helpful to encourage people not to acknowledge what they are feeling before trying to be some assholes best friend or the understanding parent that they never had. it all looks good on paper though.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      The intent of the post wasn’t to suggest that we should repress. I wasn’t addressing people who have been legitimately hurt by someone else’s actions. If you have been hurt, I hope that you find a place where people are not offended by you and will love you and help you.

  • http://www.wildbillkerr.com/ Wild Bill Kerr

    I used to take things personally. If I feel upset now I remind myself they are just people like me and deserve respect and patience even if they’re not showing me respect and patience. Most people will pleasantly surprise you if given enough love and understanding.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Aren’t those surprises the best?

  • http://www.saltandsparkle.com/home/2012/5/4/all-that-it-takes-for-evil-to-prevail-is-for-man-to-do-nothi.html Nics Cahill

    My Mum gave me the most wonderful piece (peace) of advice  -’Nicky, offence is for little people.  Breathe, and walk on.’

    She is so right, if something offends us, we have to look within as to why it offends us, at the deeper level, rather than focusing on the offence.   Why do we have those feelings, what is it that has been said, done, shown etc that we get prickly about, is there something we need to change within ourselves.  Only then can we look objectively at the offence, and decide if we need to do something about it, and sometimes we do, but this is a response rather than a reaction.

    Great post Jeremy.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Your “mum” has a great way of looking at it. When we let people offend us, it makes us even littler. Another problem with offense is that it keeps us from loving.

    • Ryan

      What’s your mom got against midgets?

  • http://dailygallen.com/ tim gallen

    i’ve always loved the insight that we control how we react to our surroundings and situations. nobody makes us do anything. and that includes offending, as well as any other number of responses – anger, fear, frustration, guilt. the times i consciously choose to react in a more positive (or sometimes neutral) manner, i am a lot more at peace and less stressed.

    great post, jeremy!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, tim. It’s about owning our actions and then living in a world of possibility where we can choose to change them for the better.

      • Sondra Carr

        I think a lot of people miss the point that when you give up on being “offended” you don’t give up the right to say “hey that thing you said created this reaction in me” – you can own the reaction and still talk to the person about it, just from a different perspective in which they don’t have to respond with changes. You’ve got it covered – you’re working on not being triggered by others, and also, and this is key, if someone is constantly triggering you (or just is a jerk) you are going to take your body and get away from them. None of this means you have to just roll over and accept any abuse.

        But if you’re owning the feeling, not stuffing it, not turning hurt into a pretense of power by calling it “offended” then if that person shows themselves to be uncaring, you’ll see, with a clear head, that you don’t really want to be around them and you’ll go away instead of get yourself hurt more.

  • melody

    Hi,I’m Filipina,and I am 18 years of age,I used to get offended always in my workplace and workmate,every time they laugh at me i don’t know why(i think because of my face)I always get offended.I am really hurting and i always cry when I got home,i used to ask my mum,yes she gave some advice but it won’t strike me and help me, instead making the situation worst ,I used to search article like this cause I’m hoping through this my mind will be enlighten,and thank God,I thank you guys for helping me.God Bless and More Power.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I am glad this helped you Filipina.

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  • Mandy

    I’m bookmarking this page to refer to it often as I try and walk through this process. I’m tired of my stinky behavior, and it’s time for a change! Thank you!

  • Jesus

    You Don’t have to be offended by anything I say, You just choose to be!!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/92335506@N08/9299010335/

    • Marco A.

      Nice excuse to mock others, and treat them badly.. what bullshit.

  • C A

    To me, it depends. It seems to me if you’re legitimising abuse. If i’m mistaken, then please clarify.

    Offence is often seen as “bad” in life. no emotion is inherently bad, since they all exist for a purpose. perhaps i have a simplistic world view (well humans are simple in some sense) but if a person is hurt by another’s action, then this is not bad to feel/think that. To me it’s a normal response. Perhaps it’s my own reasoning, but I don’t think good or even normal human conduct is to cause others distress.

    That said, I do agree how we respond to situations is key. If somebody is purposefully causing us offence, then fighting fire with fire is not always appropriate or productive. If somebody in one’s vicinity is not friendly or welcoming, big deal. Simply disengage from them.

    Also, people often are offended at others’ life choices, but this presumes persons always respect others’ rights and actions. in our contemporary Western society, perhaps, since we believe in acting freely without hurting others. Not all cultures, whether today, historically and most likely in the future were/are/will be so tolerant. I think also as human beings, we hold a tendency to project and believe “if it is good for me, then it’s good for all”. I personally live life with a generally liberal attitude, since I recognise that everybody is different. However, I would only respond negatively if actions affect others negatively or myself in a bad manner.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks for the comment. You are right. I do not believe all offense is bad.
      I was trying to address the type of offense you mentioned at the end of your comment. The type where you don’t agree with and don’t like what someone else is doing or saying. And as a result, you don’t like them.
      Some things are offensive and it is okay to be offended and okay to say so. We can often make progress when we have honest open discussions about such things.

      But there is a significant portion of the time when our offense is really selfish.

  • RICK

    Hello Jeremy, someone at work called me a “botton feeder”. How do I respond to that…help. Please reply to rjra1124@yahoo.com I just want to be able to not offend this person. Help me. Should I just move on and get another job, or just stay and put up with this person.

    • Kitkat32

      You need to give more context to your post. Why were you called a bottom feeder?

    • Sondra Carr

      1. Get your head around this fact – to THEM you seem currently to be whatever it is they think of as a “bottom feeder”. You may or may not be, and whatever they think that is may or may not be a ‘bad thing” to you. But you’ll never know if you get offended instead of asking.

      2. Now that your head’s on straight about the triggery moment, ask them if they would do you a favor and tell you what it means to them and why they think you are this thing.

      3. Listen.

      4. When they are all done talking, instead of immediately dismissing their thoughts, ask deeper questions so you fully understand, then ask yourself the following:

      - Am I doing something wrong?
      - Is this a misunderstanding?
      - Do I need to change something in myself to get along better with people? Fit in with this person? Do I want that?
      - What are the values I have that are associated with this?

      An example is this:

      Say the person who called you that said it about your choices in women. They noticed you date women who are down on their luck (i’m just making an example) and they are disgusted by this, thinking you’re doing it to take advantage of them.

      Now if you are, then you have to decide some things – does that make you feel bad? Do you feel conflicted and is this bringing that stuff up? Or are you a sociopath – in which case, why the hell do you care?

      If you’re not a sociopath, maybe this is an opportunity to learn and to become less conflicted between your values and your actions.

      Other possibilities are that you are actually helping these women and you have a soft spot for them because your mom was down on her luck when you were growing up or whatever and you can explain this to the other person because you asked clarifying questions.

      You also have the right to say “when you said that it kind of hurt me” – when we say we’re offended, often we mean that we’re hurt but we don’t want to appear weak and “offended” seems like the “offensive” position and so “strong” – it’s not though – it’s kind of selfish as this article suggests. It assumes that the other person has no rights to their own thoughts, words, conclusions. Instead, try not assuming and asking for clarification. People usually have logical reasons for the things they do – they just don’t always have all the information. They’re more likely to listen to you if you approach from a position of asking for and offering more information than of being offended and ready to fight.

  • Darrell Allen Caraway

    So this means as a man you’d choose to just let people rag on you and all you have to do is let them go on and on and it’ll make it a great ‘experience’. Somethings missing. Or do you mean just sit there and shut up and let everyone else run the whole show where women are trying desperately to tell men what to do, using techie gadgets and working in teams?

  • shelly

    Awesome. I’m 41 and finally learning to not being offended. Carrying offense causes anxiety. People’s offensive words mean nothing! Learn to not care.

    Drop that stuff!!…and smile:)

  • Dori

    Thank you so much :) I’ll read it again and again and work on my self, so I don’t get that easily offended, respond with anger and new offence and then feel painfully guilty.

  • Any

    Lol I was feeling really bad I just went said sorry and apologised if I did anything wrong at 5;24am. Fell a lot better: D

  • Leah

    I agree we must all fight offense. But we must remember to always be honest with ourselves. If we are offended we should acknowledge that in a respectful way. We must be true to our own feelings. If we are not true to our own feelings then we can never grow. Every plant must grow for itself, no other plant can grow for it.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Perhaps if we are truly honest with ourselves, then we can understand that taking offense is not needed. What someone else says or does, does not define who or what we are. Their actions do not have to dictate how we respond.

  • MIA

    I’m learning a lot from your postings and comments from others. It is changing my selfish ways of thinking. As I’m writing this, I have a note pad on my hand jotting down all the vital points. Thanks a bunch, Jeremy. Again, I love your postings. Remain blessed.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thank you.

  • María

    Hi Jeremy.

    I’ve been into therapy for years, for problems related to vocation and depression. I consider myself a good person, not only as a full devoted and willing worker, but also as a respectful, friendly and collaborative being. I like helping others whenever I am asked, and because of these problems related to vocation I have tried to keep a balanced life and a sense of accepting life as it comes… However, some months ago I was fired for offending my exboss. First time in life it has ever happened to me in 12 years of career and I feel no pride of it whatsoever… There were no curses, not even a public show, but I used strong adjectives and meanings to tell him/her I was tired of the lack of trust and bullying after two years of everyday-work-relationship…

    Even when it was a time I had been going to a lot in personal life (economical situation, direct threats on my family due to political issues, husband struggling with a new business in a new country, etc.) I knew what I did was the wrong way of dealing with the issue and apologized (three times, three meetings that came after the incident), but I was, of course, fired…

    What went through in my life has been hard, as I jeopardized the economy of my home and finding a new employment has been oddysey, but I remember thinking, back on the episode at the exact time, I wanted to become a mirror: an object to make my exboss see the real features of what he/she really was, and I guess that’s why I picked the words I used…

    I have felt very bad since then, but not because of what I said to this person even when I did it (it is a contradictory feeling, as I’m not used to hurt anybody by saying or doing things), but because of the weaknesses I showed by apologizing to a person to which I still feel gratitude, but who confirmed all the things I feared of him/her: pride and narcissism… And it is a weakness not because of lack of self-dignity I showed by apologizing (damn etiquette and feeling of guilt!), but because one has got to be somehow strong or smart enough to keep dealing with this sort of individuals in life (specially in power positions).

    I have loved this post and thanks for writing it.

  • Admir Redzematovic

    There is no way in hell im going to respond calmly after someone instigates shit. Im sure as hell not going to stop talking either just because some moron has a problem. I can say whatever i want, do whatever i want, and just like someone had the right to offend me, i had the right to offend them back. Maybe theyll choose their words better next time.

    • Nina

      You must have lots and lots of friends.

      • Admir Redzematovic

        No need for lots of friends when you have a few that respect you. Better have a few that respect your word then to be a follower who trys to fit in where they dont belong.

    • Nathaniel

      I think the freedom of choice is very valuable and extremely important, and yes, there are those out there who offend others simply to belittle them and bolster their own ego (especially on the internet where one doesn’t have to reap the moral consequences of hurting others.) But I feel having these freedoms means wielding them responsibly and with tact. Moreover, I also have found that in instances when someone is blatantly trying to offend others, not allowing oneself to be offended is a much more powerful and disarming response that a hot-headed tirade that validates the instigator.

  • Hayley Jeffus

    I think it’s also important to realize that things that offend us aren’t always necessarily meant to be offensive, and to reflect on why we are offended before we respond. The world doesn’t revolve around me and my feelings, I often have to remind myself of that.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, Hayley. That’s one of the keys isn’t it?

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  • Brandon Roberts

    yeah well i be nice or thank you for your kind words:) but yes sometimes i’m meaner than a two headed snake mostly when i’m disgustingly offended

  • Ragnar

    I really wish this article could help me, but nothing seems to work. I came across an article the other day about how J.R.R. Tolkien was the worst writer in the world. I was so crestfallen and miserable that I almost cried. I need help. I don’t mean to sound self centered, but I have serious problems with this. If you have any advice for me, please email me at paris.thompson47@gmail.com

    I’m very sorry if I’m drawing too much attention to myself, but thanks for your time.

  • Debbie Pineau

    Excellent.

  • Sandgr0wn

    Great article….but what do you do when people are offended by suggesting that they try some of your suggestions?

  • ophelia

    what about when arrogant condescending ppl say negative, narrow-minded backwards things that have no reason to them and are offended if we don’t agree?

    • Rex

      Did you not read and understand the article?

  • Jim

    Good offerings. We need to be realistic, however. Sometimes we actually are in unhealthy situations and things truly are offensive. Better to get out of this type of situation then to say and enable a energy vampire.

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