Hello everybody, welcome to episode 240 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is from a listener who wants to feel less fearful about offending other people.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Thanks a lot for being here, everyone. Glad you could join. Now today I’ll be taking a question from a listener who is perpetually worried about accidentally insulting others. They feel that in spite of their good qualities, that they can’t help but to offend people, even though they around very few people – which is something that I think is really going to come into play and worthy of consideration. So let’s get into this one, see what they have to say, and do our best to help.
QUESTION: “Can I develop an even stronger mindset? I feel as though I am constantly insulting people or offending them with just simply speaking. I know I am a genuinely nice and caring person. I do not spend time with others generally, my job allows me to be alone, it's heavenly.”
“Heavenly.” Ok, asker. Thank you for sending this in. You know, when I look at both halves of this question, I immediately find myself having a “the chicken or the egg” argument.
You say you feel as though you’re constantly insulting and offending people simply by speaking, and you also say that you enjoy being away from people. The joy you take in not interacting with people is of equal concern to me, and it makes it difficult for me to tell which is causing the other.
Do you avoid people because you’re afraid of upsetting them in your interactions, or have you become afraid of upsetting people in your interactions because you’re starting to forget what it’s like to actually interact with people?
Social Interaction and Offending Others
It sounds to me like right now, the biggest sample size of interaction that you’re getting is probably on the internet, and God help anyone who bases their opinions of social interaction on internet exchanges.
If this is true for you, then of course you’re going to feel as though you’re insulting and offending everybody, because the internet is a cesspool of people talking about how offended they are. Being offended is dramatic, it’s stimulating, and therefore it’s going to be shared and featured because it’s naturally attention grabbing.
So for as much of this content as there is on the internet to begin with, the internet is going to make sure you’re hearing about it, because it’s a traffic driver.
Are You Spending Enough Time With Others In Person?
You’re shooting yourself in the foot by choosing not to spend time with people in person, because you’re not allowing yourself any practice. You’re not seeing a wide range of people and their responses to things, and therefore, you’re also not generating an opportunity for yourself to be around people who do accept you.
You’re distancing yourself before even giving others a chance to distance you. The need for the approval of others has gotten so strong that you’re doing the rejecting for other people – all the while martyring and building resentment because in reality, it’s getting harder and harder for you to accept yourself.
Acknowledging that you’re a nice and caring person is great. That means you’re still aware of your intentions, which are good intentions. But those qualities speak to how you relate to other people, and that means that it might get harder and harder to perceive yourself as being nice and caring if you deliberately pass up on opportunities to be with people that you can be nice to and care for.
Reframe Your Fear
With that being said, I think it’s time to develop a new approach to your social life. It’s time to reframe your fear of insulting people as both an opportunity to really listen to what other people have to say as well as an opportunity to be vulnerable enough to accept yourself.
Find a group of people who have similar values to you, and additionally, who are emotionally mature enough to regulate their emotions even when they are offended.
Having a group like this will help you with two things:
First, they’ll teach you that there are people out there who you can be yourself with, without guilt or retaliation.
I will caution you, however, that you may think this is a facade at first. Your reflex is likely one of guilt right now, so it might take you a few reps before you’re able to see these people for who they are rather than casting your judgments on them based on those who you have or think you have offended in the past. A lot of your own self-work is going to require seeing each person anew, and making a concerted effort to identify times in which your bias leads you to believe someone is upset when they actually aren’t. I’m right there with you on this one, by the way; we can tackle that together.
And secondly, the right group of people will model behavior that’s good for you.
Hopefully that will include teaching you how to be accepting of personal shortcomings such as paranoia over offending others (or even a tendency to offend others if you actually do). After all, you want to be patient with yourself the same way you wish others were patient with you, right?
They’ll also demonstrate an ability of how to not over think interactions so much that you’ll avoid them, enabling you to realize that by avoiding them, you’re keeping the world from all of the kind and caring things that you know you have to say and do. And that’s because comfort with ones own emotions matures like anything else does; when they’ve all been given a chance to breathe, grow, and have experiences.
Asker, I hope this episode helped you out a little bit, and sorry if I idealized that group of people that I suggest you get in with too much. I sure am holding them to a high standard, aren’t I? Well such people do exist, and they make great friends!
As for everyone else, I think the takeaway today is really an interesting notion about what we struggle with and how we unknowingly fuel that struggle. I talk a lot on here about taking responsibility of course, but it’s not always easy to see the ways in which we could take responsibility, and sometimes taking responsibility is so dire that not doing doesn’t only risk making the problem stagnate, but making the problem worse.
So take this as a reminder to look a little extra into the cycles you might be falling into and whether or not you might have so much discomfort that you’re indeed pushing the remedy away.
That’s it for now though, folks. Thanks once again for joining me here in 240, and be sure to come on back next time as we look to help another listener out here on the show. Until then, friends.