How To Stop Being Offended By Everything

You’re supposed to be in the driver’s seat of your own life, so let’s cut the passenger princess act.

By Andrea Mew7 min read
Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

It’s a personal choice. It’s easily avoidable. It’s pretty ugly, and it really needs to stop. Yes, people really do need to develop a sense of emotional intelligence and learn how to stop being offended by everything. People are guilty of it no matter which political party they’re affiliated with or their lack thereof. Easily taking offense seems like a fight or flight habit that, when left unmanaged, fosters negative attitudes that are, honestly, hard to be around. 

We’re all entitled to our own opinions. There are, of course, caveats like when we’re speaking about psychological trauma or verbal abuse, but most of the time, the vast majority of cases are people just getting butthurt over really trivial things. Ready to thicken your skin?

You’re Going To Have To Cope With Things You Don’t Agree With

If we all shared the same thoughts on the television show du jour or feelings about how our government should be run, life wouldn’t be very interesting. Our widely varied opinions breed creativity and allow for people to dig deep into their unique brains, introducing anything from abstract concepts to artistic creations to fully fleshed out ideologies that make the human experience so much more robust than that of our more primitive relatives. Just like how a free market economic system offers us a variety of niche goods and services to pick and choose from, a free market of ideas offers us a variety of thoughts and opinions we can accept or reject.

Gracefully rejecting the things you don’t agree with is challenging, but the growth you’ll achieve pays in dividends. Your first step? Understanding and internalizing the often advised, but seldom followed phrase: Pick and choose your battles.

I’m not the first person to point out how people get offended over the smallest things. For the sake of argument, can you imagine if someone couldn’t cope with your favorite color being mauve because they really just prefer Tiffany blue? Mauve is just a little too dusty for their liking and it reminds them of their Great Aunt Pearl who used to feed them aspic and bored them to tears every holiday with stories about the local pickleball drama. Sound outrageous? That’s because it is. We all have such varied upbringings that point our preferences in one way or another, we shouldn’t expect anyone to bow to our feelings.

Mob-like outrage culture, both online and in-person, fosters a very hostile environment where people become conditioned to react to everything and anything. Adopting a reactionary mentality isn’t healthy for your relationships because most people are more conflict-averse than you likely are. You may be okay with your whole life revolving around constant polarization, but most other people don’t bat an eye at the social ills of the world that keep you up at night.

When you get that gut feeling of offense, ask yourself: Is this emotional reaction a reflection of something more deep-rooted? Might you actually just be afraid of hearing the truth? Are you more stubborn than you’d like to admit? Have you unintentionally been unwilling to practice a healthy amount of compromise? The phrase “agree to disagree” exists for a reason. Keep it in your back pocket.

Learn How To Actually Listen – Actively and Often

Anyone who has been married for practically any amount of time can attest to the fact that the most aggravating, pointless arguments always seem to stem from one person (or both!) not listening. Conversation isn’t a one-way street, and while marriage is certainly one of the biggest tests in which to learn this lesson, poor communication caused by closed ears can happen in any interaction. Far too often people speak to be heard, and no one actually listens.

It's almost too easy to observe these fake conversations in the digital sphere. People want to speak their mind, so they’ll get on their soapbox and shout. Since there’s no immediate danger from the other side of the screen, they let down their guard and appear to be eager to vocalize their beliefs — but, interestingly, not so eager to hear anyone else’s thoughts on the matter. 

We shouldn’t shy away from differing opinions and insulate ourselves from outside thought — not only because the things we learn from other people may help us change and become better people — because we can genuinely gain valuable experience, effectively dissecting and defending our own beliefs! 

If you’re a militant keto queen duking it out with a fierce vegan activist, you might not want to hear what they have to say about the dairy you hold near and dear. But if you just listen to their arguments, you might actually learn the cons to your pros about the dairy industry. Alternatively, by actually listening you can more thoroughly digest their arguments and see where the knowledge you’ve built up could be used to change their mind. That’s not to say that you should spend every conversation waiting with bated breath to school the other person, but you should never lose sight of the fact that conversations happen so we can better understand one another and learn from outside sources.

Learn How To Take a Joke

Ever stopped to wonder why safe humor isn’t funny? I’ll listen to a morally woke, progressive feminist comedy special on Netflix and be able to identify within moments why it is that I haven’t laughed a single time, nor even cracked a smile: The humor isn’t offensive! 

Comedy is at its best when the comedian on stage can tackle the elephant in the room or wittily say those provocative things that everyone else is just a bit too shy to share. Allow a comedian to poke fun at sensitive topics without being unnecessarily rude and their jokes will undoubtedly land better than if they’re sweating on stage trying to self-censor.

As someone hearing a joke, you should practice that active listening once again and breathe before you allow yourself to get all up in arms. Internet meme culture has fundamentally changed humor and inserted it in every aspect of communication. We speak in meme, we send memes, some of us even *get* memed. For example, while integrating humor into politics is certainly nothing new (some even consider political satire to be an American tradition), it’s commonplace today to make memes out of a politician, political party, or ideology.

If you belong to a political party that’s the butt of a joke (i.e., you’re a Democrat and someone online voices a pretty spicy take about Representative Nancy Pelosi’s pandemic ice cream collection), you might feel inclined to go on the defensive. 

Here's the secret to happiness (or one of them): Don’t descend into immediate defense. Take a step back and appreciate the humor in the joke. It’s not a personal attack on your family, your moral character, or your livelihood; it’s just someone online using humor to get through their day. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I get it, certain parts of your identity might feel sacred to you, and you want to defend your camp. But a joke doesn’t always come with the intent of disrespect. Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t absolutely adore a healthy dose of drama. That said, no one wants to be known as a drama queen (or king), so it’s in our own best interests to not seek outrage. 

If you’re taking every comment, statement, argument, story, or controversy too seriously, you may find yourself accidentally or actively looking for ways to take things out of context. 

We’re all a little bit too overstimulated by the internet right at our fingertips. And while it’s all fun and games to make silly, vague generalizations online, you need to be able to recognize when other people are doing the exact same thing. You might like to dish the tea, but when you read the tea, be aware if your walls go up and you feel defensive. 

Do yourself a favor and don’t take yourself so seriously. By engaging with other people – whether in-person or online – you’re opening yourself up to both jokes and criticism. It may sometimes be constructive, but it may also end up feeling destructive. Honestly, what’s really achieved by taking life so seriously all of the time beyond unneeded stress?

It’s Time To Put an End To Toxic Victimhood Mentality

Despite my mountains of musings over femininity and how culture is shifting in many ways to erase womanhood, I don’t believe there’s really a war on women. Making the assertion that there is a war suggests that two camps are in battle against one another. Pitting the sexes against one another or pitting women against women isn’t productive in the long run; it just fosters a victimhood mentality.

When you walk the path of being easily offended, you’re truly allowing yourself to become a victim. Once you deliberately label yourself as a victim, you lose a lot of personal autonomy over your own psyche. It might seem like somewhat of a psy-op, but if you’re an easy person to offend, you’re easier to control. You can’t control how other people will treat you, so those devious folk among us who prey on the weak won’t give you a break if they know how to push your buttons. Basically, exposing yourself as an easy target to warrant a desired reaction will only worsen the cycle of people taking advantage of your predictable patterns.

It doesn’t help that our current climate affirms victimhood mentalities, even for those who victimize themselves. #MeToo was meant to combat sexual harassment and empower women to speak up against the men who violated them, but it was co-opted by an organized movement that descended into a gender discrimination witchhunt. We reward people for complaining about how they’ve been wronged. Our 24/7 news cycle eats it up because sensationalism sells, and journalism conducted with integrity just doesn’t secure clicks.

The moment you let yourself become a victim over minor issues, the worse your sensitivity toward any adversity will become. It’s just like how procrastinating over a pretty big project because you’re anxious will likely leave you feeling even more anxious about getting it done. If you avoid discomfort and fear, those feelings will double down the road. We’re creatures of habit after all, so by priming yourself to be delicate and not in control of your own feelings, you can expect to always feel like the victim and never feel like the victor.

You Should Understand the Difference Between Offense and Harm

The phrase has probably been said one too many times, but you should honestly internalize the old adage: Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you. Someone may have spoken ill or made a comment in jest about something you love – from a cosmetic product to your own guiding set of moral beliefs – but they didn’t harm you. You aren’t physically injured. You might psych yourself out into feeling emotional anguish, but if you’ve adopted the more productive mindset that adversity builds character, then you have no reason to fret or fear.

Give yourself some headspace to dig introspectively and probe your brain a bit. What is it about this exchange that made you feel upset? Are there serious ramifications that will adversely affect your day-to-day life, or do you just feel downtrodden? If there were no real-world effects in this exchange where you felt offense, like losing your job or ending up physically injured, then you weren’t objectively harmed because thoughts and feelings are subjective.

Anonymity on the internet has its blessings and its many blights: You can express yourself in a semi-safe environment (so long as you’re not divulging any sensitive information that someone can use to dox you with later) where you aren’t subject to physical attacks, but you’re also opening yourself up to the input of every other internet user. Practice mind over matter and let ridiculous (or regular) remarks just flow off your psyche like water off a duck’s back. 

How About Trying To Cultivate More Positivity in Your Life?

Negativity is a slippery slope. Once you open yourself up to feeling anguish, anxiety, or anger over something as small as a statement someone else makes, you’re unlikely to stop there. Suddenly, the clouds come in and hide any sunshine. 

No one is immune to this gut reaction. I know I’m not! Far too often, I’ll find myself reading an article that highlights rising crime rates, the worsening obesity epidemic, or a timely scandal exposing corporate corruption, and it starts to ruin my day. But instead of hyper-fixating on the things that make me feel like doomsday is approaching, I make active attempts to increase the visibility of things I actually like.

Weaponize a tailored social media feed to your advantage. I don’t like to be behind on current events, but I also know if I doomscroll too long through headline upon headline on Twitter, I’m bound to be bugged. To counteract this, I curate selective Twitter Lists where I only see tweets from specific accounts. 

For example, I have dedicated lists on Twitter for high fashion, aesthetically-pleasing images, and marsupials. Same thing can apply on other platforms, especially ones like Pinterest where you can disappear for a long time in pretty, pleasing aesthetics. And since I’m proactively finding ways to program positivity into my day-to-day dealings, I’m already less prone to falling into a self-destructive, negative rabbit hole. As such, I rarely feel genuinely offended over trivial things.

Take Some Time To Learn the Art of Argumentation

No, I’m not always chomping at the bit for banter, but I can safely say that I have a much healthier relationship with debate thanks to studying argumentation in college. The speech and debate classes I took not only put my public speaking skills and overall confidence to the test, but they also opened my eyes to these pesky little things called logical fallacies. Once you learn logical fallacies and are able to take a step back and analyze how people don’t necessarily think before they speak, I assure you, you’re much less likely to become offended by their statements.

Logical fallacies are flaws in reasoning used to boost an argument. Once you understand what ad hominem is (the logical fallacy of attacking a person’s character or personal traits in order to undermine their arguments), it’s really a lot easier to feel in control of any anger that might come rushing in when someone insults your appearance, your voice, your marital status, or your ethnicity. Understanding how these attacks undermine an argument by not actually engaging with it helps you prime yourself to be balanced and not respond inappropriately. 

On that note, you should consider the idea of holding your peace. Like I mentioned before, allowing yourself to react when provoked is a very easy way to lose power. When you hold your peace after being challenged, you’re giving yourself a bit of personal patience to analyze your psyche. 

Pause for a moment and start to ask yourself some questions. Is there anything worth gaining if I act out and take offense? Do these words really bear so much weight that they’ll significantly affect my life? No? Okay, then challenge yourself to relax and move on. It’s easier said than done at first, but consistently remembering to hold your peace in the face of adversity will lead you to be far less offended by trivial matters.

Closing Thoughts

While I’m fully advocating for you to not be easily offended, I’m certainly not encouraging you to care less about other people’s feelings. Getting offended and caving to mob-like outrage culture aren’t the same things as actually being insulted. It’s important to draw a distinction between the two, because you truly shouldn’t trivialize or invalidate someone else’s feelings if they’re actually experiencing verbal and psychological abuse. 

Maybe it was the advent of reality TV or maybe it’s the fault of social media, but as time has gone on, people have become increasingly unfiltered and oddly comfortable “calling out” other people and “clapping back.” Without a doubt, this can be taken way too far and turn into genuine bullying. There’s no need to self-censor. Just be thoughtful and try to make sure that with the time on earth you’ve been given, you use your gift of communication in a productive manner.

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