How to Respond to Offense

Close-up phot0 oClose-up photo of a woman who has heard something she doesn't like. She's offended.

Have you ever begun a conversation with somebody that didn’t exactly go the way you had imagined it?

Maybe you were trying to express a complex thought, but the other person misunderstood what you were saying. Or perhaps you were trying to make a point, but the other person got defensive and started arguing.

If you’ve ever experienced this, you’re not alone. It’s a common problem that can be frustrating and even damaging to relationships. But there are things you can do to improve your communication skills and avoid being misinterpreted. 

Here are a few tips on …
How to Have a Conversation Without Being Misinterpreted:

  • Be clear and concise. When you’re trying to express a complex thought, it’s important to be as clear and concise as possible. Slow things down a little before you speak. Use simple language and avoid jargon. And make sure to state your main point at the beginning of your conversation.

  • Be aware of your body language. Your body language can communicate a lot more than your words. So make sure you’re using open and friendly gestures. And avoid crossing your arms or making other defensive movements.

  • Listen actively. When the other person is talking, really listen to what they’re saying. BE CURIOUS! Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. And don’t interrupt.

  • Ask clarifying questions. If you’re not sure what the other person is saying, ask clarifying questions. This will help you avoid misunderstandings.

  • Be respectful. Even if you disagree with the other person, it’s important to be respectful of their point of view. Avoid name-calling and personal attacks.

In addition to these tips, it’s also important to be aware of the following factors that can contribute to misunderstandings:

  • Implicit memories. Our implicit memories are the memories that we’re not consciously aware of. These memories can influence how we interpret what other people say, even if we don’t realize it. We know we are having an experience that is triggering an implicit memory when we are immediately angered, or have a flush of emotion that is unexpected or inappropriate.

  • Filters. We all have filters that we use to process information. These filters are based on our beliefs, values, and experiences. They can cause us to see the world in a certain way, and they can also lead to misunderstandings. Someone who is constantly defending themselves or explaining themselves is speaking through a filter of hidden abuse.

  • Painful memories. If we have painful memories, we may be more likely to misinterpret what other people say. This is because we’re often looking for ways to confirm our negative beliefs about ourselves or the world.

It’s important to be aware of these factors when we’re having a conversation. By understanding how they can contribute to misunderstandings, we can better communicate with others and avoid being misinterpreted.

Finally, it’s important to remember that we can’t control how other people react to us. We can only control our own words and actions. If we do our best to communicate clearly and respectfully, we can’t be blamed for misunderstandings that occur.

One Final Thought …

The offense is a CHOICE. When I am easily offended, it’s because something I just heard is painful, and deep down, I relate to it or am actually in agreement with it and am afraid that it might be true.

Here’s an example for pointing out the pain response.

My name is Shannon. That is a fact. That is the truth. If someone kept calling me Alissa, for instance, I wouldn’t be angry. I’d wonder why they are calling me by a different name. Most likely, I’d ask them, “Why are you calling me by another name?”


What if I wasn’t sure about what my name was and the name Alissa was the name of someone who was brutally mean to me. I’d feel anger towards Alissa, and I’d be angry that anyone could mistake me for her. Even then, I probably would still ask them why they are calling me that name and how they know that’s my name.

Offense is a pain trigger. Most likely there’s a legitimate reason why that pain is there but it is not productive to forego noticing or finding out more about the pain behind our reactions. 

When we take on offense, it’s to fight and prove we are right, or better than others. It’s a call to battle! Rather than battle, take these steps in response:

  1. Notice the hot flash experienced in response to something you took offense in. See it as a gift. Continue noticing how you want to respond to it. (It’s a gift that signals a wound that has presented itself for healing.)
  2. Ask yourself, “What other moment in my life did something like this happen that made me this angry or hurt?” (that will help you identify an implicit memory.)
  3. Keep noticing … If the first memory you uncover is one of many, keep going back in time, all the while noticing your reactions and the timeline.
  4. Recognize that offense can be inherited. In Mark Wolynn’s book, “It Didn’t Start with You; How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle”
  5. Notice what YOUR motive is in taking that offense. Is it to prove a point? To be right? Ask yourself, “Is this a hill that I want to “die” on?”
  6. Stay curious! Stay curious in regards to your own reactions, and ask clarifying questions. EXAMPLE: “Did I hear you right? Did you just say … (repeat what you heard, or understood) then ask, “Can you tell me more about that? I want to make sure I understand.”
  7. Keep your eyes on the goal. Avoid vain arguments. Some people just like to push buttons because it amuses them. Don’t be the button.

Just as we will experience stormy weather and massive natural disasters – we’ll experience offense. Whether it is our own, or that of those we serve.

Offense is a gift. It introduces an opportunity for clarity and growth. 

Offense happens.

  1. How it presents itself
  2. What it feels like
  3. The story that comes with it
  4. Who it affects
  5. How we may respond to the offenses of others
    1. Attack
    2. Defend
    3. Ignore
    4. Judge
    5. Observe
    6. Notice
    7. Identify the belief system
    8. Implicit memory

What we can learn from offense

  1. Value
  2. Self – our own stories, judgments
  3. What we are in AGREEMENT with (we wouldn’t be offended if we didn’t think what was said or happened to us wasn’t the truth. Deep down we believe it. That’s why it hurt.

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