What To Do When You Feel Offended

By J. B. Nash - Oct. 3, 2020 

“You Can’t Say That.” —

I have a confession to make…I hated being told I had a quiet voice. 

It offended me. It angered me. I would get so internally frustrated from having to repeat myself after realizing no one could hear me. 

To me, I sounded perfectly fine. And any louder I felt like I was shouting. I didn’t want to come across as annoyed, even though I was, because at the same time, pleasing other people was top priority for my subconscious brain, regardless of how I felt inside.

And yet…frustration continuously boiled in the pit of my stomach every time a person explained to me that my voice was too soft, or that I mumbled, or that they couldn’t hear me and I needed to “speak up.” And the more I heard it, the more that same frustration began to bubble over and erupt directly in their faces. My reply would often be: “That’s just how I am,” or “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” or I would just sigh heavily and repeat myself with a slight edge to my voice. 

It’s Them, Not Me —

I often told myself, “it’s them, not me,” subsequently refusing to change my view on anything because “everything was fine” and people just “needed to get hearing aids,” as I so often retorted.

Because I had so tightly woven those identities around myself, whenever someone tried to disagree, I would feel embarrassed and shut it out.

A bit off topic, but…has anyone ever taught before? Like, a real human being. Oh boy—-as a normally shy person, it was an enormous step for me personally—especially teaching kids martial arts as an assistant instructor. I had no idea what to do, and if you know absolutely anything about kids, it’s that you need a confident, loud and varied voice to get their attention otherwise they’ll focus on picking at the corner of the mat or untying and re-tying their belts. They‘ll focus on anything BUT you.

Even before I took the position, my instructor would often have me step up and teach a kick to a new student, or demonstrate a lock, present a technique, or lead warm-ups. At first, I was constantly told I was too quiet. Ugh, total slap to the face! I felt like giving up then. It freaking hurt. After all, it wasn’t my fault that no one could hear me. My voice was perfectly normal! 

A Victim of My Own Mind —

What I soon found was that I also liked the idea of being the victim in the situation. It gave me an excuse not to change myself, nor to look at myself and see the areas where I needed to improve. It’s not that my voice was the issue, but the way I viewed people’s criticisms. And my attitude toward the phrase “speak louder” turned rather…bitter.

I became a victim of my own mind. My own thoughts and the way I saw the world was so tightly wound that anyone who tried to unravel it just caused me to roll into a defensive ball like a hedgehog being poked with a stick.

It took me quite awhile to overcome this negative outlook. 

Let me explain. 

Indomitable Spirit — 

In martial arts, students are taught a concept called indomitable spirit. 

What does that mean? It means a person, a spirit—that cannot, NO MATTER WHAT, be subdued, broken down, or defeated by any means. It’s the hope, inner strength, and courageousness that drives a person to continue learning, to continue practicing, to continue their passion, and to pursue whatever they’re doing with utmost vigor. No one can stop them, even in the event of adversity, hardship, or pain. 

Alongside this attribute, we are taught integrity. Having a moral code with honorable attributes like respect, honest, and courtesy. Indomitable spirit encapsulates these attributes and allows the person to thrive no matter what situation they find themselves in, whether a verbal or physical altercation, or a mental block. 

It means UNCONQUERABLE, and THAT is the true spirit of a warrior. 

Expect the Unexpected —

I’m reminded of a quote that seems to sum up this particular issue of victimizing ourselves in today’s society: 

“Remember that you have a high chance of facing rude people today. This can be on social media or in public. If you are aware that you always face these people, then you must aim to not let that encounter ruin your day. They win by ruining your day and you win by ignoring them. See that by not reacting to their rudeness they have lost. By remaining in a good mood you are the winner.” 

William Mulligan

It was through trail and error that I became aware of my problems, but it was the humility to overcome them and not let the criticisms, the harsh words, the offensiveness, or the brutally honest feedback pick away at my mind, my inner spirit, that allowed me to gain the strength to move on.

And it wasn’t just my voice that became my sensitive point. It was when I first submitted my work to be reviewed and got negative criticism saying it wasn’t any good. At school when I was told I was the “weird shy kid.” Getting laughed at for wearing certain clothes. When I was at work and people would lash out at me for something I didn’t do. When my job application was rejected. The moment I first realized that I will never have a normal family life. And so on…and so on. Events like these are never what we want from life, but they do happen, and we need to be prepared to handle them correctly and face them with strength, courage, and dignity.

The only way to overcome your fears is to face them.

Nine Ways to Respond to Something That Offends You —

Many times we don’t like hearing what offends us because it’s embarrassing to admit our faults, or to address an issue we don’t feel comfortable talking about, even if it’s not our fault, or even if it’s not true. And when that happens, we tend to lash out to make sure that person knows it’s not true. But it’s important to remember that all we hear, whether true or false, kind or unkind, offensive or not, is information. It tells a story of who we are as humans in today’s society—where our faults are, how we approach situations, and how we act upon what we’ve been taught or conditioned.

Here are my personal ways of dealing with offensive verbal language, especially the kind that seeks to injure you on purpose, but also perhaps the kind that isn’t trying to hurt you, but ends up threatening to rip out your insides anyway (in a metaphorical sense, of course).

Address it Calmly

Getting worked up means they got on your nerves. If they’ve done it on purpose, they have control over you because the more your emotions take over, the less control you have over yourself. If they did it by accident, you’ve just made a mountain out of a molehill and suddenly you’re the aggressor. Take a deep breath. Stay calm.

Acknowledge it

If they’re clearly trying to get on your nerves, say something like, “I understand what you’re trying to say, but...” or “I understand your frustration...” and provide a rebuttal. An argument doesn’t mean yelling. It means debating between opinions. The very moment you start yelling, it becomes a fight and no one wins.

Move on 

This is especially if the situation is out of your control. For example, you can’t control how a person thinks internally. Letting it go can be the hardest thing to do, but it’s worth it. You have the power to not let it disrupt your mind.

Clarify 

There’s actually a psychological trick to this if someone says harsh things to you. Calmly say the phrase, “What do you mean by that?” This makes them contemplate what they’re actually saying. Repeating oneself can sometimes be awkward. Letting them think about what they actually meant can allow you time to respond, as well as allow them time to clarify themselves.

Don’t engage

If their only objective is to make you feel afraid, angry, or engage by responding at all, you doing so means they’ve won, but refusing to fall into their trap shows that their offensive words aren’t able to get to you. 

If, however, you need to respond (say at a debate), then recognize what they’re attempting to do and remain calm and respectful. Also, being kind in response may take them off guard. 

Laugh

This is especially true if you believe they didn’t mean to offend you. Think of people as extremely curious creatures. They may ask personal questions, by that doesn’t mean you should get angry about it. (this is, of course, different if those questions are aimed at stalking you. Know the signs, don’t engage, and always seek help in those cases, even if you’re unsure). 

I see often where we put people down for simply asking questions on topics we’re curious about, especially concerning one’s culture, gender, country of origin, race, religion, etc... In general, approaching the question with a laugh may ease tensions. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t feel comfortable answering the question. If they persist, remain firm in your response.  

Understand Their Position

Have the mindset that it’s not about you, but about them and their situation. We all are a product of our environment, and everyone has been told certain things a certain way their whole life. We can’t prevent that from happening to them just as much as we can’t prevent it from happening to us, but we can still demonstrate courtesy when refuting what they’re saying while still being open to discuss another side of things. Remember, we’re all here to learn. 

Don’t Expect Them to Change

Just as you are able to reject an opinion, so too are they able to reject what you have to say. And that’s okay. Moving on just means that you are confident in yourself and your abilities without the need for approval from others.

Don’t Take It To Heart

If you do not let it upset you, if you smile instead, if you face adversity with a quiet courage, only then can you have sympathy for the person using harsh words against you. Only then can you see reality as it truly is. And only then can you create a positive change.

 Amor Fati: Love of One’s Fate —

“Remember today the latin phrase Amor Fati: Love of One’s Fate. The idea is to endure what you must and to enjoy what you can. Many things happen in life that are out of our control. Don’t resist them and don’t resent them. Don’t let the fates destroy your life. Understand that they may knock you down but you can always get back up.”  

William Mulligan

To be honest with you, sometimes that frustration still appears. Sometimes, I still get angry over things that offend me, even though I’m always working to improve myself. But that doesn’t mean I should give up, or be bitter about my situation. Because, let’s face it, it’s no one’s fault that my voice is this way. It just is. How I deal with it and how I respond is up to me.

It wasn’t until I realized I needed to change that I recognized my value was beyond any criticism, opinions, or feedback anyone had on me. No one has that sort of power over me because I’m more than just my thoughts, or my opinions, or my body.

When we take offensive to something said against us, we all should take a step back, know who we are at heart, and carry that indomitable spirit with us no matter what hardships, trials, or offensiveness we face in life. That is what makes us strong. That is what creates a positive change in this world.

Do you guys have more suggestions for this conundrum? What are your experiences in dealing with feeling offended? Let us know in the comments!

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