“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt
What does it meant to take offense? According to the Oxford Dictionary taking offense is the annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult towards one’s self or one’s standards or principles. Merriam-Webster provides that offense is something that outrages the moral or physical senses; the act of displeasing or affronting.
So how do we avoid these perceived insults? The answer lies in the word perceived. When we takes offense we are simply having an emotional reaction to what we perceive as reality. It is our interpretation of what happened, or what was meant by a certain statement, that caused our emotion. The scars and defenses we use to protect ourselves from emotional pain form patterns of action and reaction. These patterns at times may become so self –deceptive that we forfeit all sense of identity and we may even feel victimized.
Taking things personally, or taking offense, may cause us to feel ashamed, angry or less than. These feelings may cause problems with personal relationships and in our work environment. They may lead to anxiety or depression making it difficult to feel comfortable during social situations. So how can we stop reacting and become proactive in our response to perceived insults or disregard? The answer lies within ourselves. We have to look into our emotions and personality to uncover the source of why we are really taking that specific situation personally.
Not everything is about you – We have to realize that life does not revolve around only ‘me’. In making this realization it allows us to have compassion for others and their views or perspective. Is the other person preoccupied? Are they dealing with relational issues, family illness, pain, financial issues or a work dead line? Are they even referring to us? They may simply be distracted, totally unaware or ignorant of the facts. Assuming what another person thinks or knows is one-sided, it’s bias. In order to not take offense we must be objective and remove our own prejudice from communication.
Take control of your emotions – When we take offense to a statement it is because our ego is bruised, we feel insulted and powerless. We have been humiliated and it is unfair. It is important to not let the reaction overwhelm us and to remove ourselves from the emotion. We must ask your ourselves; are we thinking logically and listening to the facts and specifics in the conversation or are we perceiving and feeling emotion in the conversation? Are we dealing with conflict as it relates to the content of the conversation or the substance of the relationship? Are these feelings logical or are the simply our perception of the reality?
Don’t give your power away – When we take things personally we are giving certain people more power over us than they deserve or should ever be allowed to have. In effect, we are allowing someone to question what we feel and believe. We are trusting someone else to tell us who we are, instead of relying on what we know to be true about ourselves; what really defines us as a person without any outside influence. In essence, taking things personally keeps us tied to someone else and, in the extreme, can even make us feel like a victim.
Practice Humility – Humility is recognizing and accepting our own limitations based on a careful assessment of our influence and importance. Humility reduces our need for self-justification and allows us to admit to and learn from our mistakes. Humility recognizes we are one person among the six billion interdependent people in this world. Because of this generous and healthy perspective regarding our significance, we, being truly humble, cannot be humiliated.
Remember not everything is about you, stop feeling and reacting in communication, think with logic and control your responses, don’t give your power away and remain humble. Use these tools and you will put an end to taking offense with any conversation.
“He who takes offense when no offense is intended and is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.” ― Brigham Young