One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard is: “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.” -Brigham Young
When I first heard that quote, it didn't make any sense to me. Why would it be better to take offense from someone who didn't intend to hurt me than it would to take offense from someone who absolutely intended to hurt me? Why do they get to win? When is it okay to start taking offense. Is there a meter I can buy that tells me when it’s okay to start being mad at people?
Then a funny thought hit me: How about I just don’t take offense at all?
Think about it… Think about it…
Let's talk about "offense" real fast; this disembodied ideology that tells me when it's time for me to go to war! What is taking "offense" exactly and why do we take it? Normally when we "take" something, we're taking something we want or need. So what do we get when we take offense? It's outrage, it’s pain, it’s anger, and it’s all ours. No one else feels it but us. We often don’t see it that way though. We see it as ammunition for some sort of attack, not usually a correction, but an attack that will lead us to a victory, but it never really does. When we are offended we start wars.
I completely believe in correction and even defending ourselves from the spread of false information, but as soon as it turns to anger or competition, they have control over us. In fact, we gave it to them. So why is it more foolish to be offended by someone who was trying to offend us? Because we just gave our power over to the enemy. They love that.
In fact if you’re really trying to get to them, the best thing you can do is completely ignore their attack. Words are the only form of warfare where we choose its effect on us. We choose it because we are accountable and in control of our behavior. No one else can take the wheel.
Here are some of the best practices (and it does take practice) to can put into motion as soon as you are feeling criticized or even verbally attacked:
1) Breathe: Breathing will help calm the mind and ready the brain to process an objective outlook on their words.
2) Listen: Don't worry about defending yourself right now. Genuinely give them a chance to express what they need to say.
3) Here are a few responses I have found incredibly valuable when I feel I'm under sort of criticism or verbal assault. One of the best things we can do when we are receiving feedback that is hard to hear, would be, “That you for your feedback. I'll take some time to consider what you said.” Or if you feel the conversation has turned from critiquing to straight up bullying a controlled response would be, “I’m sorry, you seem to be heated right now, and I don’t think this conversation is going to be effective. I appreciate your feedback, but I’m going to go ahead and end this. I’m happy to continue this when we both feel it’ll be a little more effective.” And then walk away from the situation.
The fact that you respect yourself enough to leave an abusive environment, will take the target off your back. Also, it's absolutely a power move! You just set a strong defense against their insecurities being projected to you. Now what are they left with? They're left with their own shame, and they have to process that. After they do, they will come out of the interaction more humble, more whole, more happy. Everyone wins.
Now, it's important not to use this kind of tactic unless we are actually being personally attacked. If you have a roommate that comes to you and asks you to do your dishes, or a co-worker who approaches who tries to give you kind feedback that he/she doesn't feel like you're pulling your weight on a project, and you respond with what we discussed in the previous paragraph, chances are you're being avoidant rather than responsible. You'll end up looking pretty foolish. When in doubt, it is always better to assume someone isn't trying to offend us.
Those who master the art of accepting honest and genuine feedback, and make it a habit, are amazed at how their worst enemies become their best friends after they genuinely try to understand one another’s point of view. It takes a tremendous amount of vulnerability, but they remained in control. The best part is, it gets easier along the way.