We’ve all heard it. Whether it’s a sibling telling you your outfit is ugly, or the middle school bully on the playground telling you you’re annoying. “No offense”—or “don’t take this the wrong way”—is some sort of halfhearted attempt at saying something cruel while somehow taking the sting out of it. I hate that phrase. I recognize that I have probably said it before, and it probably ruined someone’s day. And I apologize. I vow to never say it again, because it is almost worse than just saying the mean thing and moving on.
Whenever someone says “no offense,” I think to myself, how am I supposed to interpret someone telling me that my singing voice makes their eardrums beg for mercy? There is no rational way to not take offense to something that is inherently offensive. It’s an excuse for people to say whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want. Maybe if they just acknowledge that what they said was offensive, then maybe their insult will land just fine. But the reality is, our words don’t work like that.
Saying these prefaces makes almost any comment even crueler. They put a damper on just about everyone’s day when we interact with the bluntness of someone’s snarky remark. Removing anything from our vocabulary is tough, hard, and a lot of work. But for everyone’s self-esteem, and to maintain relationships with others—we need to find other ways to speak to each other honestly. Ways that aren’t harmful, and then also follow-up with a reasoning for such opinions.
I know I am not the first person to think of this. To consider ways in which we can engage with one another productively and share our opinions conducively. During a conversation a few weeks ago, someone told me, in no uncertain terms, to “not be offended that [they were] telling me this,” but that I looked exhausted, with “massive under-eye bags.” They didn’t mean for this to be hurtful. In fact, they were probably trying to be helpful, possibly suggesting that I get more sleep. This was unhelpful, though, because it was hurtful, rather than productive. It didn’t have an effect on them, and certainly was of no help to me either.
So, instead of saying “no offense” before you just let your opinion and your mouth run wild, maybe think about the way in which you can broach a topic kindly. Make a gentle suggestion, or if the comment is wholly unnecessary—don’t say it at all. It really isn’t that hard. We are all (for the most part) mature and logical. In middle school, we had a saying, “Is it true, kind, or necessary?” Now, I say unnecessary things all the time, but the important part is that the words be true and kind. Is what you have to say true? Think about it, for just a minute. Do they actually look tired? Do they look like they are vying for your opinion? And, is it kind? Do they need to hear that right now? You never know the kind of day that someone has had. So just think for a moment. We don’t need to say offensive things just to say them. We should make necessary comments that are warranted. We can express our opinions in the correct time and place. My suggestion is, overall, to stop saying “no offense.” There’s truly no reason.
No offense though.