Do you regularly take offence?

Jane was in an online meeting where deadlines were being discussed among team members. At the close of the meeting, Jane’s manager asked if anyone had any other concerns. Jane broke the team’s silence by stating that the IT group had committed to solving a software problem for one of her clients by July 1st. Although she had called them numerous times, Jane expressed her concern for her client given it was now July 25th and it was still outstanding. Jane’s manager immediately shot back angrily, “Jane you are entirely too emotional!” Jane asked, “What do you mean by that?” The manager responded by stating, “This is not the time and place to discuss this!” End of conversation. Meeting over. This is a typical outcome when taking offence is the order of the day.

After the meeting, Jane became upset because her manager would not answer her calls. Jane emailed and asked for feedback about what it meant to be “too emotional.” Her manager responded via email by stating that Jane was too direct and blunt in the information that she shared in the meeting. No matter how many times Jane reached out, her manager would not engage other than through email. The manager’s behaviour infuriated Jane who felt like her manager’s response was less than respectful or professional. Additionally, she was being teased by her peers as being “too emotional”.

When taking offence is the default reaction

As Jane’s manager headed the IT team that wasn’t delivering, it was clear she was offended by Jane’s feedback in front of the group. In turn, Jane was offended because she felt like she was treated unfairly during and after the meeting. Someone wise once said that “Offence is usually taken and not given.” This is usually how offence shows up. Someone does or says something we judge to be unwarranted or unfair, we become emotional, and then we shift the blame for the current situation. to someone or something else. Many interactions in the workplace take shape in a negative way because taking offence is the default reaction.

7 Strategies to keep your cool when you feel like taking offence

If you are the type of person who regularly takes offence to the actions of others, here are some suggestions for staying more rational in the moment rather than losing your cool.

1. Make a choice

Recognizing a tendency to becoming emotional is generally identifiable. If you know that you have a tendency to become upset in certain situations, decide beforehand that you will not let your emotions drive your behaviour. You can make a choice to be offended or not.

2. Detach and assess

If you find yourself reacting negatively, take a step outside of yourself and see your behaviour objectively. Then ask yourself, “Why am I becoming emotional?” or finish the sentence, “I am upset because… “ as many times as you can. Your subconscious holds the answers to these questions. Taking the time to identify the answers will help you see how you are interpreting the situation and the particular mindset that is causing your behaviour.

3. Identify values

Part of the reason we take offence is that we project our values onto others. For example, let’s say that Jane’s manager has value for doing great work. Jane’s feedback about the failure of the IT team to meet a client commitment reflected poorly on the manager’s leadership, so she took offence to the feedback. Jane, on the other hand, may have a value for keeping her commitments. So when the IT team didn’t meet their commitment to her client, she took offence. Jane also took offence because she was treated disrespectfully. Part of the reason we take offence is that we assume that others have the same values that we do. When others violate our values, we become defensive.

4. Check rationality

Everyone is rational from their own point of view. The challenge then becomes for us to understand another’s rational point of view. Simply asking yourself, “What would cause them to say or do that?” forces you to consider a viewpoint other than your own. Doing this mental exercise will allow you to maintain your rationality as you contemplate the answer to the question. At some point, you may recognize that you can’t rationally answer the above question, so you will have to ask them to help you understand their behaviour. Seeking answers to the behaviour you don’t understand will help you get outside yourself and learn something.

5. Forgive them

Walking around holding grudges and being offended will canker your soul and infect your interactions with others. You must admit that your negative emotions and thoughts are not worth the burden. It is not easy to forgive others, particularly when your thoughts and feelings are justified given their poor choice of behaviour. Nevertheless, people will come to judge you in a negative light if you can’t learn to forgive another.

6. Stay on track

People generally have goals and objectives that they are trying to achieve. Let your goals guide your behaviour so that you stay on a path of growth and development rather than allowing yourself to be diverted by the behaviour of others. We usually achieve what we intend to accomplish. Let your behaviour reflect a clear, deliberate intent that you have identified.

7. Visualize your response

If you frequently take offence, identify when and with whom that occurs. Take some time to visualize yourself responding differently to that situation. If you prepare mentally before a situation arises, you will increase the likelihood of responding in a more positive way and decrease the potential for a negative outcome.

Being offended seems to be part of being human. However, continuing to take offence because of the behaviour of others really is a matter of personal choice. Making a deliberate, conscious choice to maintain your rationality in the heat of the moment is the key to becoming more emotionally intelligent. Learning how to control your feelings allows you to deal with others more effectively while achieving the results you really want.

John R. Stoker has been immersed in organizational development and change for over 20 years. He is the Founder and President of DialogueWORKS, Inc. In these roles John has worked extensively with a number of companies, helping them increase their capacity to enhance effectiveness and improve results. John is also the author of the popular groundbreaking book Overcoming Fake Talk, which was released in May of 2013.
John has vast experience in designing strategic change and in creating and implementing training curriculum in support of company-wide improvement initiatives. He has worked with numerous organizations as a change management consultant.
DialogueWORKS was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Springville, Utah, with affiliates throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.