This was first published on KSL.COM
My spouse and I read your article last week about understanding the fear behind our behavior, and it's really helping us see what's going on when we fight. But we both are prone to getting offended way too easily. People often disregard us or are disrespectful, and we both tend to be bothered and frustrated with a lot of people. This also means we are mad at each other a lot, too. I think maybe we need to learn how to let things go and not take things personally, but do you have any advice for doing that?
I have actually
Here are some common qualities of people who get offended too easily:
If this sounds like you, here are some things you can do to stop getting offended so often.
Trust the journey
Choose to see life as a classroom, and that the universe and you together are co-creating the perfect classroom journey for you every day.
This means the people who offend you today are perfect teachers, giving you a chance to grow, be more mature, or see your fears and work on them. When you trust your experiences are the perfect classroom for you, you aren't as offended by them. (Note: I am not talking about abuse here, just garden-variety slights that aren't degrading or abusive.)
You have probably married your perfect teacher, too. He or she will teach you by pushing all your buttons to bring your triggers to the surface so you can heal them. Trusting that your life is a classroom also makes you feel safer; it means life and the universe are on your side and their intention is to always serve you.
Trust your value
Choose to see all humans — including yourself — as having the same infinite value that isn't in question and doesn't change. This means we are all students in need of more education. When you see people this way, you can release the need for judgment and give them all permission to be a work in progress just like you.
Allow others to be different
Allow other people to react, behave, think and be wired differently than you are. They were raised differently and they haven't had your life experiences. Therefore, they have the right to function differently, too.
Give others the room to be the way they are without letting it take anything from you. You both have the same value no matter what, and you have the right to be where you are. Stop expecting everyone to think and act like you.
Learn something from this
If someone criticized you, could it be constructive and could you learn something from it? Life is a classroom and that is why you are here. What could you gain from this criticism if you chose not to take offense?
Flip the insult to see if it's still true
If someone has "disrespected you," write that on a piece of paper. Then write "I disrespect me" and ask yourself if it's still true.
If it is true, consider that your own disrespect of yourself might make you feel others are disrespecting you when they really aren't. Is there any chance the way you see yourself has been projected onto this other person? You do this more than you might think. If you don't like yourself, you will also project that and believe others don't like you either.
Double-check their intent
Ask yourself: Did this other person really intend to do me harm, insult or disregard me? Or is there any other meaning their actions could have? Usually, the other person was focused on their own issues and missed what they did or said completely.
If they didn't intend harm, is harm done that can't be let go? We hold onto intentional hurt because we believe it protects us, but unintentional hurt is best let go. Also, give the benefit of the doubt that that other person didn't mean to offend.
Let go of the need to be right
Sometimes it's OK to let another person think they are right even when they aren't. If it improves the relationship, why correct them? Choose your battles and try to allow others to do things their way as much as you can.
Forgiving is not pardoning bad behavior; it is changing the way you see the bad behavior so you can change the way you feel about it. It's about letting negative emotions and feelings go and trading them for peace and happiness. When you see an offense as a perfect classroom and the person as having the same value as you, and you choose to see growth and learning in it, it becomes much easier to forgive.
If this is hard for you, start a forgiveness practice journal and work on it daily. Choose an offense or a mistake you have made every day and process it to forgiveness. Choose the positive feelings you want to experience around this and practice choosing them.
Consider your options and possible outcomes
What is the outcome you will create if you choose to be offended or hurt by this? What kind of behavior will you exhibit in response? What will that create? Is this what you want?
What are some other options? What would you choose if you knew you were safe and good enough? What would a love-driven response look like? What would that create?
If you are still having trouble being offended often, consider working with a coach or counselor who can help you establish your own sense of safety in the world so you can feel more bulletproof. A professional who knows how to do this can help immensely.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.