Not everything that offends us is an insult and not every insult has to offend us.
Have you ever seen a small child bump his head and look to you for a reaction before seemingly making the decision to burst into tears? That’s us. The dynamics of getting offended doesn’t change much from the time we’re toddlers. You could say the process just gets streamlined.
Believe it or not, science says that feeling offended is a choice. It’s more interesting than just a blow to our honor. We must interpret an event before we are offended by it.
We have control over this process. It is possible to plan ahead right now and decide what will and won’t offend you.
The trouble is that unlike a toddler, we decide to be offended in milliseconds. It is a very very fast choice we generally leave to the subconscious, especially as we get older. Doing this automatically can be a problem for obvious reasons.
The Most Normal And Most Destructive Miscommunication in Relationships
Positivity is a choice, and the first step to making that choice is wanting to change. Tweaking your definition of insult and offense can act as a springboard for the rest of your personal development plan. The difference between being ‘offended’ and being ‘insulted’ is this:
If I insult you, I am doing something.
If I offend you, you are doing something.
This mix up is probably one of the most normal and most destructive miscommunications in English, but if you want to get more respect and improve your relationships, we recommend you start by addressing this seemingly tiny confusion. It is actually a massive massive trap.
You can’t do anything about somebody insulting you, but you have control over whether you will take offense.
What to do
We “take” offense. A paper by Sagu University says a good way to visualize offense is as something we can choose to leave or take.
1. Clip Your Heuristics
In psychology, the choice to feel offended could be called a product of heuristics. Heuristics are like mental shortcuts we use to organize our thoughts quickly. The link above goes to a whole TED Talk that will make you question whether free will does exist.
Your mighty mind can use biofeedback to overpower even the most entrenched heuristics. The rest of these tactics are actual practices to help you accomplish this strategy.
2. Plan Ahead
The only way to do this is to plan ahead. To avoid getting offended in the future by something you know is a waste of your time and energy, you can plan right now and decide what kinds of things you are okay getting offended by and which you’d like to change.
3. Look For Common Ground. Be Empathetic
Egos and miscommunications have been causing tragedies since the dawn of mankind. Pretty much every religion ever has tackled this problem with rules that help believers speak the same language.
Isabella Poggi says that when we think the person offending us has the same beliefs as us, we are less offended.
4. Be Humble
Arrogance and offendedness go hand-in-hand. The way I got interested in offendedness was at a speaking event by Mickey Singer, where he made a point that stuck with me. I still use this trick to this day.
No matter how terrible you feel, your offendedness will pale when you frame it within the vast spans of the universe.
Conclusion | Positivity is a Choice
Ask your friends about their pet peeves. Have them ask you about yours. Do these ever keep you from living the life you want?
Knowledge is power. We hope you will use this stuff wisely in order to captain your life in the direction you actually want.
Zander (1976) defined the feeling of offense by describing three chronological phases. These phases describe how a person expresses feeling offended in the real world. A person has already chosen to take offense when s/he begins to go through these phases:
- The offended person identifies the cause of the offense and works to develop some sort of interpretation.
- The offended person attempts to determine the intensity of the feeling of the offense which is based on one’s belief of self and whether the offender holds those same beliefs.
- The offended person has some sort of reaction to the offense that is based on a number of factors.