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Q&A: “How Can I Stop Getting so Easily Offended over Small Things People Do or Say to Me?”

A blog reader asks, “How can I stop getting so easily offended over small things people do or say to me?”

Well, the answer I give may not be the answer wanted! Actually, I want people to feel offended over rude, uncaring or offensive acts by others… even if small. With that said, though, it’s what we do with that feeling that really matters. If someone treats you inappropriately, feeling offended is a signal for good boundaries and is the beginning of self care. But, sometimes people take that feeling to an unhealthy level. For example, they make it too much about themselves or make it too much about the other person. If personalized, a person may start to feel guilt over someone’s  uncaring behaviors. The boundary will break down and he or she may begin thinking they did something to deserve or cause it. That leads to turning on one’s self because instead of setting limits with someone who treated them poorly, they begin to blame him or herself. Conversely, if a person makes the offense too much about the other person, they will go on and on about the other’s offenses, demonize the person and not check in with him or herself about insecurities that may have been triggered.

Although difficult to do, the healthiest approach is to first feel the offense, then hold the other person accountable followed by a personal inventory. In other words, because you’re human, it’s normal and healthy to feel hurt if someone treats you poorly or carelessly. Next, it’s healthy to set a limit and hold the other person accountable for what they did and communicate your experience and feelings to them (if they are a safe person to do that with). Finally, it’s crucial to bring it back to yourself and check in about what old insecurities or wounds may have been triggered. Yes, the other person’s comments or behaviors may have been insensitive, but are your insecurities from the past amplifying them? If that is the case, some of the work is your own and healing is in order.

If you or someone you know has a question you would like to submit for my weekly blog post, please feel free to ask via my website under the “Ask Sylvia” section in the middle bottom column on homepage.  All questions will be received and answered anonymously.

Sylvia Flanagan, MFT is a San Diego therapist with a private practice in Mission Valley.  For more information about San Diego Therapy, feel free to call or email her.
Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9:00 to 6:00.