When my wife and I were newlyweds, especially in our first year of marriage, we were frequently offended with and by each other. We displayed immaturity.
Offenses included conversations like:
- What does that tone mean?
- What’s the secret message implicit in you putting your shoes there?
- Sure you said sorry, but did you really mean sorry?
- You sure left the room quickly. So, what are you MAD NOW??
And on and on. Speaking for myself, I acted like a big baby sometimes. I was quick to take offense.
At some point we both realized that this behaviour was just dumb. And immature. Plus, it didn’t make us happy; quite the reverse – when we got into these goofy disputes it just made us both miserable.
Gradually we learned that we all choose when to – and when not to be – offended.
Some action occurs that you don’t like and you have a choice to make: will I take this personally or shrug it off? Will I dig in, or forgive?
Here’s an incredibly powerful and freeing concept: You have the ability to choose how you respond to situations. You can’t choose how people treat you, but you are in full control of how you respond to those people.
This is called responsibility.
Somewhere between the action and your response to the action is a gap. It’s that short time when you get to choose how you’ll act. Will you be offended, or will you smile and walk away? Will you hold a grudge or forget it (or forgive it) and move on?
This is a foundational concept that will actually change your life. Change. Your. Life.
No one ‘makes you mad.’ You choose to let your emotions get out of control. No one makes you lash out. You decide to respond in an immature way. No one offends you. You choose to take things personally and let it land on you rather than build personal boundaries so you are a healthier you.
It’s always about you, not about someone else. Because you can’t control anyone else. You can only control you.
Today’s world encourages you to be quick to take offense
As if being offended is a recipe for happiness or success in relationships.
For my part, the people I admire (and like) most are those who are really hard to offend. They give me the benefit of the doubt. They assume my good intentions unless they have hard evidence to the contrary. They’re bigger than those petty things. I want to be friends with those people.
On the other hand, people who are quick to take offense are no fun to be around. They’re prickly. You walk on eggshells wondering what you might have done this time. You find ways to not be around them.
I’ve said a thousand times that maturity is simply the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. When you get good at that, it’s hard to be offended because you get why the other person is criticizing you. You can see how your behaviour irritates them. You have self-awareness.
The biggest indicator of immaturity in a person is a quickness to take offense.
So check out your life this week. When do you react badly? In what ways to do you need to grow up? And how can you choose a better response going forward?
“It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile”
-Sting, ‘Englishman in New York’
Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.” He is also co-founder and senior instructor at gettingpeopleright.com https://gettingpeopleright.com/
Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here: https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-Skills-Dramatically-Performance/dp/1632651068