Author, speaker, and teacher, Rosie Molinary, empowers women to embrace their authentic selves so they can live their passion and purpose and give their gifts to the world. The author of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self Acceptance and Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina, she teaches body image at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and facilitates transformative workshops and retreats for women. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Recently, a friend confessed an awful thing that someone said to her. And it was crap what was said to her. The kind of crap that absolutely came from the school of “it is never about you.”And my friend kind of knew this but she was stuck on one point. The person had couched their unhelpful, crappy remarks with this gem, “No offense.” So my friend was conflicted. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to take any offense then. Maybe she was just supposed to take it. Because the person did say, “no offense.” Maybe she should just lick her wounds and move on.
But here is the thing about those things that are qualified with “no offense.” By their very nature, they are offensive. And saying ”no offense” doesn’t suddenly make them okay. It is just like when someone says something crappy but couches it with “I ‘m sorry but.” Um, no you aren’t sorry. Because if you really regretted it, you wouldn’t say it the way you just did or at all.
Truth: any sentence starting with “no offense” is almost always offensive. And any sentence starting with “I am sorry but” is usually something one should be really sorry about saying.
Prefacing a sentence with the opposite (No offense, Sorry but), doesn’t change one’s intention. It actually just means he or she is smart enough to know better but not kind enough to do better. But, my friend wondered, as I insisted that this wasn’t about her and that she shouldn’t listen to the one, what if this was feedback she was supposed to use as a catalyst for change. The key question she wanted answered was how to tell the difference between the stuff people say to us that is about their stuff and not ours and constructive feedback that we should maybe use an opportunity for growth.
This seems like a hard question. But the answer is easy. Does the person hurt you with what he says or how he says it? If his delivery is meant to deliver pain or doubt or insecurity, then it is all about that person and his desire to transfer his own pain and insecurities elsewhere. Does the person have a hard line in her thinking or is she willing to listen and discuss and remain open to the possibilities? When you want what is best for someone, you have no reason to cause pain and you have no points to prove. You are willing to offer a new way of seeing something to your loved one but have no investment in forcing them to see your point. It is a possibility that is being offered, a new way of seeing or thinking, and you don’t have any skin in the game that makes you insist that they see it your way. Because you don’t want them to see it your way. You want them to see their way.
Does the person seem most concerned about you or his thoughts? Does the “no offense” or “sorry but” seem intended to let the person off the responsibility hook for her actions? There is no disclaimer that lets one off the hook from doing better, for practicing kindness, for managing our stuff in a way that doesn’t try to take the pressure off of us and pass it off on someone else. When we are really trying to offer helpful support and insight to someone else, we offer it in a way that says I am noticing this and seems to be offering you pain or making things hard and it could be that I am totally misunderstanding it but, if that seems true, then I am totally here to process it with you. That is what constructive feedback sounds like.
The thing to know is that when we are in a place of peace, we do not need to start our sentences with “no offense” or “I’m sorry but.” And while there is no excuse for us to be victimized by someone else’s peacelessness, the thing I want you to know is that you do not have to accept the transitive property of their pain. You owe yourself protection against someone else’s peacelessness, against their stuff, against their pain. And that defense begins by knowing when not to take something in and when to be open to the possibilities accessible to you in your growth.
May this week bring you peace among other’s pain and insight when, and in a way that, it can be inspiring.