Oh, yes. It is an art. Twisted and surreal, like Picasso, but an art.
Everywhere you look, someone is either giving or taking offense. Honestly, even without this presidential race, Americans have a knack for being put off and making it loudly known, on any one of our 5 social media accounts.* Yet I rarely feel better after I’ve told-it-like-it-is or held onto an offense long enough to explicate in gruesome detail. There is something grimy about keeping slights in one’s back pocket, about letting them stick. But how do we let go, when we’re used to holding onto them like honeybadgers? People use words like grace, gracious and graciousness like they can be ordered on Amazon, but I find them to be elusive.
For a long time, I pretended that the ill-timed interruption, the detraction made at the expense of a heartfelt point, the social media revelation that I-wasn’t-invited, the sharp spiritual comment or my acute awareness of disinterested body language didn’t affect me. I let the pinching sense of smallness flash past my mind’s eye then swept it into the trash bin, soon to be permanently deleted. Or so I wished. It was a feeble attempt to assure myself that “these people” weren’t important enough to hurt my feelings; but they are and that’s exactly how it should be. I could become a high-functioning sociopath #justintimeforhalloween, but I don’t think prison would suit me.
Most importantly, however, pretending erases the potential a negative experience has for becoming a powerful lesson. Life cannot always be an Instagram feed of peaceful tree shots, hot cups of tea, musicianship and joyful family antics, yet I actively avoid non-compliant experiences. That means I’m only utilizing half of what could make me a better person, both for myself and for those around me.
So, true to my rational side, I developed “The Art of Taking Offense”:
- Take offense. Be hurt. Feel the burn, bruise, cut. It was painful.
- Take a moment. Regroup. Set your shoulders. You are better than the little gremlin that howls to be let loose and give equal offense…or is that just me?
- Take the opportunity.
I’d like to put a bit more time into this last step, because it is key in cutting through bitterness (which tends to crop up at the most inopportune moments) and in empowering yourself after feeling put down. It rockets you out of Victim Village and puts the cape of a Culture Changer on your shoulders. #yes #ilovesuperheroes #andalliteration
Find and take an opportunity to treat someone the opposite way. Quickly.
You get ignored, interrupted or talked over? Find someone to listen to.
You get left out? Find someone to welcome.
You get forgotten? Find someone to remember.
You get rebuffed in your attempt at connecting? Find someone seeking connection.
I think you get the point. I’m not pretending to be made of steel. I’m not feigning forgiveness, while carrying around a shotput of bitterness–which will haplessly fling itself into the melee, via an offhand remark 5 minutes, 3 days or a week later. I am redirecting focus to something I can control. With this simple flip-flop, I can make my immediate surroundings a better, safer social environment. There are times to address harms and repeated disrespects but, most of the time, people are like me. I say and do dumb things. I get mad and blustery; my shoulders tingle, my face blanches and I hurt somebody’s feelings. Sometimes, I’m on the receiving end.
I can make a meal out of it. Or I can sweeten the deal. 🙂
Yours, An Introvert at Large