Do you find yourself feeling offended every day by something someone said or did? If your answer is yes, it might be time to learn the art of letting things slide.
By not getting offended so easily, you minimize your own stress levels and open yourself up to the world of personal growth. And when you truly embrace letting things slide off your shoulders, you come to better understand yourself and others to help all relationships in your life thrive.
This article will teach you how to turn down the volume on your instinctive offended reaction so you can grow as an individual and in your relationships.
Why do we get offended?
Why can’t we all just get along and have world peace? Sounds great, am I right?
I wish it was that simple. But the reality of human nature is that we don’t like it when our ego is threatened or when someone goes against our personal values.
Research has found that we tend to get offended when our self-image or a public image that is important to us is being challenged. It also suggests that a high sense of self-esteem may in part mediate these effects and help us feel less offended.
In other words, we don’t like it when people question who we are or question an organization that we strongly believe in. I think this is in part because our ego likes to feel “right” or “in charge”.
You don't have to be a scientist to experience this. All you have to do is start talking politics with a friend or family member who doesn’t hold the same opinion as you to see this in action.
Within moments, you will find that you can offend that person because you have challenged their personal beliefs or a politician who they hold in high regard.
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Effects of being easily offended
You may think that being easily offended has no consequences other than making you mad. Unfortunately, the research suggests otherwise.
A study in 2020 found that individuals who were more easily offended demonstrated poorer task performance at work and had more negative attitudes as perceived by their supervisor. This generally resulted in fewer healthy relationships between the worker and their supervisor.
As a human who used to err on the side of being easily offended before entering the medical profession, I can attest that it strongly influences stress and anxiety.
I remember I used to get worked up when someone would say something negative about me. Or I would get self-conscious when someone would speak negatively about my chosen profession.
All this ever did was leave me feeling a lack of self-worth or engaging in negative emotions that drained my energy.
6 ways to not get offended easily
These 6 tips are here to help you learn how to gracefully navigate that offensive moment so you can allow yourself to let it just slide right off your shoulders.
1. Identify why it is that you’re offended
This is probably the most important tip of all. If someone offends you, it’s probably telling you something about yourself.
This matters because you need to identify if getting offended is your cue to work on a problem you have with yourself.
I remember when I was a new grad, one of my coworkers told me I was “too nice”. They said that’s why people felt like they could walk all over me.
Immediately, I felt offended and thought something immature along the lines of, "Well maybe" you’re too mean and that’s why your patients complain!”.
Luckily, instead of going with my inner two-year-old response, I reflected for a moment.
When I realized that I was getting offended because I knew at some level it was true. There are moments when I let a patient’s wants and desires trump what I know they need during a treatment session.
Once I realized this, I felt less offended. I then realized this was my cue to work on clear communication with my patients while setting healthy boundaries so they did not walk all over me.
2. Differentiate constructive criticism from true rudeness
It’s important to realize that not everyone is out to offend you. Sometimes a person is just trying to give you constructive criticism and you are choosing to be offended.
When your boss gives you negative feedback about a work-related task or if your partner tells you that you’re really bad at texting them back, they probably aren’t doing so with the intent of making you mad.
Now, remember, I’m not saying it’s easy to not get offended by these things. I’m saying that you need to recognize that they are giving you feedback with the hope that you’ll take it into consideration and change your behavior.
This is not to say that there are not times in life when someone isn’t just plain rude. But take the time to differentiate if the person is attempting to give you meaningful feedback or not.
That simple differentiation can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding getting offended.
3. Take a minute
If you immediately feel your blood boiling after someone says or does something, odds are you should not react right at that moment.
Your immediate reaction will most likely reflect that you are offended. At that moment, you will rarely be your “best self”.
You can literally step away physically or you can internally countdown from 60. I tend to force myself to take at least 5 deep breaths.
By doing this, you interrupt your reaction long enough to decide how you would like to react.
You’d be surprised that within those moments you can often realize that whatever you were getting offended by probably isn’t worth your time and energy.
4. Remember that no one is perfect
I think a universal truth that we have to remember when it comes to getting offended is that none of us are perfect. Humans make mistakes and sometimes they are super messy.
I’m sure you can recall a time when you said something and you knew the second that it came out of your mouth you regretted it.
Or maybe you acted in a way that offended someone and had absolutely zero clue that what you were doing was offensive until they told you later.
When you remember that we all make mistakes, it’s easier to let things go when someone does something that bothers you.
Remember your own imperfection the next time someone offends you and I bet you’ll let it go so much faster.
5. Embrace diversity
Sometimes when we’re offended, we’re closing ourselves off to the idea that there are other ways of viewing the world.
I find this particularly comes into play for me when it comes to religion or politics. Like most folks, I have my own set of strong beliefs that have served me well over the years.
When someone comes out and says something that directly contradicts my views, I inherently want to tell them that they are wrong. I want to explain the crap out of why my way is the best way.
But by doing this, I’m not acknowledging that my views and perception of the world are not the only way of seeing things.
Having become good friends with people who think differently and come from a variety of religious backgrounds, I’ve come to appreciate that I won’t always agree with someone.
Even views and opinions that are distinctly different from my own teach me something or help me better understand myself when I choose not to be immediately offended by them.
6. Be willing to listen
My personal favorite tip for not being so easily offended is to be willing to listen to the person who has offended you.
When you listen instead of closing yourself off because of a person’s words or actions, you might gain insight into why they said or behaved in the way they did.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine said something about how people who have debt don’t know how to work hard while they are in college.
As someone who has debt from graduate school, I naturally found this offensive as I believe I worked hard in grad school despite having debt.
Instead of telling this friend to go stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, I decided to listen. After a few minutes, I came to realize that he worked 3 jobs to support his family while going to school full-time to get his bachelor’s degree.
No one is going to argue that it was hard work and respect that he is debt free because of that. After acknowledging my respect for his path, I was able to gracefully communicate how a medical graduate program is already 40 hours a week in the classroom without including the study time outside of class in order to pass.
Instead of either of us getting offended and leaving the conversation mad, we both came to understand each other’s points of view. This allowed us to respectfully conclude that every person gets to choose how they pursue funding for their education.
It's important to be able to change your perspective. Here's our article on how to do so.
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It sure is easier to let yourself get worked up and flip the bird when someone offends you. But by using the tips from this article, you can save yourself the wasted energy of getting offended and put that energy towards improving yourself. And by unlearning the natural art of getting easily offended, you're sure to make far more friends than enemies.
Do you recognize yourself in some of the examples in this article? Do find it hard to not be offended? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!