Tips for effective interpersonal communication. Do men and women speak the same language? How is our style of speaking perceived by others? What can we do to be better understood? Communication and language is fascinating. A bunch of letters are put together into words and sentences to convey thoughts…Wow!

“Keep your words soft and tender
because tomorrow you may have to eat them.”
~Author Unknown~

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Every time I turn around it seems that someone else is suddenly offended. I hear about offended people so often that I’m starting to lose compassion for them even at times I should really feel compassion. That’s a sign that people have gone overboard with being offended at everything all the time. Why are people so offended when we used to RARELY hear anything about being offended?

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky ~

Define Respect And Offended

I believe that in order to understand each other, we need to start from the same point. That usually means we have the same understanding of the meaning of the concepts and words in the discussion. I will start with the definitions of ‘respect’ and ‘offended’ since they are the major players in this discussion.

Definition for RESPECT:

  1. a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.
  2. a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way
  3. a particular way of thinking about or looking at something
    esteem, admire, think highly of, have a high opinion of, hold in high regard, hold in (high) esteem, look up to, revere, reverence, honor

Definition for OFFENDED:

  1. feeling hurt, angry, or upset by something said or done
  2. resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult
    upset, insulted, affronted, aggrieved, displeased, hurt, wounded, disgruntled, put out, annoyed, angry, cross, exasperated, indignant, irritated, piqued, vexed, irked, stung, galled, nettled, resentful, in a huff, huffy, in high dudgeon; riled, miffed, peeved, aggravated, sore, teed off, ticked off

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How Respect And Being Offended Relate

Do you have children, babysit children, teach children or ever been around children? Children can and do say the craziest things sometimes. I remember when I was a teenager, there was a lady who attended the same church as my family and she never wore makeup. This lady had several children and one of them was quite young at the time.

My mother, on the other hand, always wears makeup when she leaves the house. One day while we were at church, the young child of the lady without makeup stood staring at my mother for a long time. Eventually she opened her mouth and said to her own mother while pointing to my mother, “Look Mommy, a clown.”

I don’t remember much of what transpired after that, but I do remember the shocked look on my mother’s face. But we have to take some things in consideration such as:

  • the lady never wore makeup
  • the child was very young
  • my mother wore makeup

Did my mother look like a clown? No, not at all.

Did it make her highly offended? No, of course not because it was just a small child who had not obviously recognized many women who wore makeup. This child related makeup with clowns. The kid just didn’t have any knowledge about makeup.

In order to be offended by someone, you need to respect them or their knowledge of the subject being discussed. Since the child lacked the knowledge to accurately judge makeup application on women, her opinion was rather narrow and therefore not respected to be the valid truth.

A much shorter explanation would be when someone calls you a terrible name while you’re driving down the interstate highway. The person doesn’t know anything about you or even know you at all, so there is no reason to respect their opinion of you expressed in one ugly, descriptive word. What they say doesn’t really matter or count. They might as well not even waste their breath because there is no way you will believe them or value their opinion.

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“I’m offended!” And “That’s offensive!”

In the United States we have something called The First Amendment to the United States Constitution that allows freedom of speech. What it actually states is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From that we can gather freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Over the course of time, it has been broken down and exceptions given, but “I’m offended!” and “That’s offensive!” do not meet the exception to the rule criteria. With that explanation it is clear to see that you have the freedom to say “I’m offended!” and “That’s offensive!” whenever you feel offended. Just because you say you’re offended and feel offended does not trump my right to disagree with you. Like you, I also have freedom of speech.

You have the right to be offended and to say you are offended, but are you really offended? Are you just angry, aggravated or simply disagree with what is being said and selfishly want your way?

When someone says “I’m offended!” I think, “Big deal that you’re offended! Learn to cope with it and get along with others the way you were taught in kindergarten.”

The main subjects that people get most “offended” by are:

  • politics
  • race
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • gender

If a conversation about any of those subjects took place many years ago by people with opposing views, it could easily turn into an argument. Now when there’s a conversation about any of those subjects by people with opposing views, before it turns into an argument and becomes uncivil, someone shouts, “I’m offended!” Suddenly the discussion about the controversial topic ends because not only is someone offended, someone else is offended that the other person is offended.

No one is offended.

Everyone is angry, feels unheard and misunderstood.

I also think that people feel entitled and arrogant about it.

Let’s try my rationale on a general topic. If we are talking to each other and you tell me that you wrote in a name on your ballot when you voted for the President of the United States, I would not be offended. A voter has the right to vote for anyone that tickles their fancy. If you decide to tell me that the name you wrote on the ballot was ‘Vladimir Putin’ who is the current President of Russia, I’m still not offended. First of all, I’m not Vladimir Putin, nor am I a blood relative of Vladimir Putin or married to Vladimir Putin, so I don’t feel that I have to defend a relative or spouse. If you are so ignorant that you think Vladimir Putin would be great serving as President of the United States, then you’re just ignorant and uneducated. That’s how I see you – ignorant and uneducated. I would feel sorry for you, not offended by your ignorant, uneducated thinking because I didn’t respect your thinking.

You have to respect the person or their knowledge of the subject in order to be offended by them. You do not have much knowledge about politics at all which is obvious by your write-in on the voting ballot, so I do not respect your judgement. Therefore, your vote can’t offend me. It might make me feel pity for you or even be angry with you, but I’m not offended by you.

There’s another way of thinking about it. If you tell the cashier at the grocery store, who happens to be someone you’ve never seen, that you are in with love her, she’s probably not going to say the feeling is mutual. Is that a reason to become offended? No! Of course not! You can’t really be in love with the cashier if that’s the first time you’ve ever seen her. That’s just ludicrous! Well, the same logic applies to the “I’m offended!” issue.

When you disagree with a particular issue and they are repeatedly trying to cram it down your throat, THEN saying you are offended really means you are offended. An example of this might be if you are an atheist and every conversation we have leads to how I think you should be a Baptist. Every time I see you, if I bring up why I think you should be a Baptist and you have to keep defending why you choose to be atheist, then there comes a point when you will feel offended. I do not have the right to cram the Baptist religion down your throat any more than you have the right to cram the atheist belief down my throat. We can agree to disagree about this topic and continue to respect the right that we have to believe whatever we want to believe. That type of solution doesn’t offend anyone! It doesn’t mean that either of us changed our way of thinking, feeling or believing. It simply means that I respect your right to choose. I would still think you should be a Baptist and you would still feel that I should be an atheist. We just wouldn’t be trying to force our beliefs on the other person anymore.

Hopefully, now you understand that saying, “I’m offended!” is different than “I disagree with you!” or “I am angry with you!”

Stating that you are offended does not give you special rights and privileges. You are choosing to be offended by strangers just like you choose to be angered by them. With self-control and respect, you can approach just about any topic and discuss it rationally.

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A Few Points To Know About Being Offended

The moment you start feeling offended, step back and think about the issues at hand. Do you feel threatened, minimized or attacked? Try to remember that just because you are offended, it doesn’t mean that you are right about it. With that being said, here are a few points to know about being offended:

  • The issue of being offended is a choice we make in how we are going to respond.
  • You have opinions and feelings about everything, but me caring about your opinions or feelings on everything is a totally different story.
  • No two people will ever agree about everything and that’s okay. You have a life. I have a life. You have freedom of choice. I have freedom of choice. As long as you aren’t cramming your freedoms down my throat or vice versa, life will be fine and neither of us is going to shout out that “I’m offended!” Respect each others right to disagree.
  • Be a listener more than a speaker. If you have verbal diarrhea and an arrogant feeling of being right all the time, people will not want to listen to you or be around you. Listen so that you can understand the other person’s point of view without mentally preparing to tear them apart the moment they stop talking.
  • Become assertive not aggressive and over-bearing.
  • Learn, study and become educated about a wide range of topics especially things that directly affect your life. Ignorance breeds fear and fear causes people to be overly sensitive. Overly sensitive people often feel offended because they can’t see the tree for the forest.
  • Don’t critically judge. If you aren’t God, you have no right to judge me. You can disagree with me, but I’m going to get angry if you minimize my existence by trying to take away my freedom of choice.
  • It’s okay to disagree, however, learn to disagree while showing respect.
  • Look for the good in people instead of checking off all their faults.
  • Be open-minded, flexible and willing to think outside the box.
  • Everything is not about you. Since everything is not about you, don’t take everything so personally.
  • You can only control one person on this planet and that’s your own self.

“When all men give to all others all the rights they claim for themselves, this world will be civilized.”
~ Robert G. Ingersoll ~

What are you thinking right now? Do you agree, disagree or are you totally offended? ;)


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