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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No offense, but . . .

People are easily offended.  Usually, they’re offended by things that aren’t meant to be offensive in the least.  Try to be funny?  People get offended.  Try being honest (in the nicest possible way)?  People get offended.  Try giving your opinion?  People get offended.  Try giving a compliment?  People get offended. 
For instance, you might say, “Wow, that sweater looks really nice on her,” to a friend.  The friend’s response, “Are you saying mine doesn’t look nice?”  Um, no.  That’s not what I said at all.  But thanks for putting words in my mouth.  No matter how nicely or humorously you word things, people always get offended by the things that you say when you weren’t trying to be offensive at all.
But, you know what people aren’t offended by?  Things that are clearly meant to be offensive.  There are people I know who have absolutely no problem saying exactly what they think – no matter how rude or offensive – and others don’t seem bothered by this.  At all.  (Of course, I won’t mention any names.  Why?  Because those people who have no problem openly offending others - they’re easily offended.  Oh, sweet irony.)
Also, people aren’t offended by things that are offensive because, in our society, we’ve come up with a way to be politely offensive to people.  And you know what?  They don’t seem to mind.  When I taught high school, I had this conversation with my students many times.  I tried to explain to them that you can’t just preface something offensive with one simple phrase and expect people not to be offended.  But you know what?  We do it all the time.  All.   The.  Time. 
What little phrases am I talking about?  These are just a few . . .
No offense, but . . .
Not to be mean, but . . .
No disrespect, but . . .
I mean this in the nicest possible way, but . .
If I can be completely honest without offending you . . .
Not to be critical, but . .
Don’t be mad when I say this, but . . .
For instance, someone might say, “No offense, but I really don’t like your new hair color.”  You don’t?  But why not?  That wasn’t a very nice thing to say.  Oh, but you said, “no offense, “so I guess I can’t be offended.  Yeah, that makes it completely fine with me.
Or, they might say, “Not to be mean, but that outfit does not look good on you at all.”  Well that wasn’t very nice.  Oh, but you weren’t being mean, so I’m totally not hurt by that.  Thanks for the feedback.
One of my favorites is when people say something like, “No disrespect, but you’re kind of a bitch.”  Oh, see, now what a respectful thing to say.  Thank you.  I’m totally not offended.
Unfortunately, no matter how many times I told my students they couldn’t start a sentence with, “no offense, but” and then just say whatever they wanted, they still did it.  I say we start a revolution.  How about we get offended when people are clearly trying to offend us, and we chill out a little when people are clearly NOT trying to offend us?  Crazy, I know.
*If you’re offended by this, it’s because I wasn’t trying to offend you.  And if you aren't offended by it, I was trying to offend you.  And if you're offended by my non-offensiveness disguised as offensiveness, then you probably should just not read anything I write because you clearly don't get it.   Oh wait, did I offend you?  Damn.


  1. That's right! You say it! This problem is nothing new. My grandmother prefaces and follows offensive comments about others with, "Bless her/his heart." New era, new taglines. I agree that people get their panties in a bunch way too much when there's nothing to get upset about and way too little when outwardly offensive things cross their paths.

  2. Not to be mean or anything but, this was a freakin' awesome post! Oops, I guess that made no sense but..... LOVED this! You are SO RIGHT about this!! What a weird back-assward world we live in.