There is a television commercial about Northern toilet paper, where a mother walks up to a clothesline full of toilet paper in her backyard. Hiding behind a tree are two boys giggling about their mischief. The mother smells the fragrant, fresh smell on the TP and asks of one of the boys who is surprised she knows is there, “Tommy, what kind of toilet paper does your mother use?” She then walks away holding an armful of the TP with the boys realizing they failed to achieve their goal of mayhem.
Beyond the advertising message, the larger message is the following - “if you don’t take offense, you are not offended.” The author of this quote, at least to me, is an old friend who was a school counselor, who unfortunately died of cancer a few years ago. I think her words are profound and can apply to so many things. It is not being naïve to think this in this manner. It is a way to say, I choose how to react to something, so I will not let you control how I should feel. In this case, these boys were being mischievous, but the mother truly disarmed them by not taking offense.
Choosing not to be offended is a way to avoid giving your power away. There are some who relish in getting another person’s goat. Sometimes it can be done in a fun teasing way, while other times it can be done by people with less than benign intent. If you choose not to take the bait, the person will cease trying to get your goat, at least on this issue. If they move on to other issues, you can choose is this someone with whom you want to have a lot of contact.
I think being able to laugh at yourself is a wonderful way to disarm people. It means I am laughing with you about something I may have said or done earlier. Or, it could be a simple comment such as “that was not my finest hour.” Then you can move on to another topic. Not biting on comments designed to lure you into conversation is another. This may occur in a line or queue as you await service, where someone will make a derogatory comment about some target, hoping you will agree. A nice smile with no acknowledgment, can permit the subject to change. If needed, you could say, “I don’t agree with that or I don’t feel that way.”
So, when someone intends to offend you or get under your skin with comments, do not give your power away. You choose how to react. If you don’t take offense, you are not offended.