If you do, it costs you. Big time.
Would you be willing to give up the right to be offended by others and life for six months on a trial basis?
That commitment transformed a senior management team at a Fortune 100 company within less than 6 months. It allowed them to address issues with each other without childish affronts running the show and blowing up the conversation about more substantive issues.
News: there is rarely a situation in which being offended helps. Possibly it might do so in an honor-based community in which the members have a prior commitment to deal with each other honorably. In that case, an offense to honor pointed out by acting out the charade of being offended, followed by a pointed naming of the offense and a request for a specific kind of correction might just do the trick.
Usually, however, people are wasting their time getting offended and distancing themselves from the kind of connection that might work to resolve the so-called offending situation.
Let’s look at levels of waste of effort embedded in different kinds of “taking offense”:
It is possible for people to get offended when it rains on their day off and they were planning to golf. Given a few minutes thought, this can be seen to be a kind of insanity that springs from thinking that life ought to organize itself around your wants and preferences — a commitment life has apparently not made (or is so bad at keeping that you might as well not get offended when it does what it does, and that outcome either matches or doesn’t match your preferences.)
Then there are the times people get offended by other’s behavior toward them. It might be worthwhile to first assess if the offending action is personal –that is, directed at you personally, now, consistent with your current behavior and your history with the person. If not, if it isn’t personal, it is likely best not to take it personally, no more than if a dog barks at you as you walk by. The dog is bred and trained to bark. The person taking the “offensive action” is bred and trained to be disappointed in others, or to feel mistreated by others, or to feel diminished by others, or to feel the need to prove their superiority over others to cover a deeper insecurity, or whatever.
I am not saying there is never anything to do about the offending behavior. I am saying that you don’t have to be offended to do so.
The first thing worth assessing is whether anything good is likely to come of addressing the behavior. If not, let it be and move on. If so, assess whether you are willing to invest what it will take to have it turn out well. If not, move on. If so, have at it, and have at it as an interesting project about how people are put together and what it takes to develop new behaviors. That is at least worth working on.
If you do determine that a worthwhile outcome is possible, I’d advise taking on the specifics of the “offending” action or speech, asking if the outcome it produced was intentional, and if not, suggesting other alternative pathways of handling the situation. If the “offense” was intentional, see if you can find out what was driving the need to give offense. Better to work on the driver than the behavior. Generally there is some underlying sense of being misunderstood or diminished that can be easily resolved by giving a chance for understanding or for providing something bigger.
How would you like to do a 6-month experiment of swearing off being offended and see what it reveals about what being offended does and doesn’t provide to your life and to those around you?