The growth of social media has developed spaces where opinions are flying. We now have the opinion of just about anyone at our fingertips, and they aren’t always good.
While many of us learn to ignore stupid comments or let ignorance slide, there are some people who just can’t let it go. They get offended at everything, even if it wasn’t really even about them, to begin with.
But why do people get so easily offended? Is it just sensitivity, or is there something much deeper going on? How can we tell who has a right to be offended, and who is making a mountain out of a molehill?
Here are nine truths about people who are easily offended, and what might be the real cause of the issue.
1. It’s probably not personal
The behavior of people who are easily offended says more about them and less about you. Although it might be hurtful when someone accuses you of being offensive, it doesn’t mean that it’s a personal attack.
They are more likely than not trying to project their values, beliefs, and insecurities onto you, rather than genuinely accusing you. So, if someone is being particularly defensive, try not to take it personally, you don’t know what’s really going on.
2. They tend to also be anxious
When someone is anxious, they display greater tendencies toward trying to control the world around them. This typically leads to the belief that their truth is the correct version of the truth, leaving little room for the thoughts and opinions of others.
We’ve all been in the situation where we’re stressed but completely incapable of taking on the advice of others. This is especially so when anxious people find that they have lost, or are losing, control of their surroundings.
So, when someone tells them something they don’t agree with, they tend to get defensive, quickly coming across as offended and irritable.
3. They’re suffering
Misery loves company, and so when someone gets offended easily, it might seem like they’re just trying to bring everyone else down with them. But there is more to it than dampening the mood.
Behind that sensitive exterior are reasons why a person is so sensitive and easily offended. It’s easy to write someone off as being miserable, but if you look a little deeper, you’ll find that they’re suffering, they’re in pain, and they’ve learned to cope with social isolation in their own ways.
Try to be patient, and seek to find out what the real cause of the problem might be.
4. They have issues with insecure attachment
As we grow and develop through childhood, we learn to interact with the world through interaction and teaching from our parents. Those with healthier childhoods tend to establish better coping mechanisms and learn how to ask for the help they need from others.
However, where this isn’t the case, children won’t go out in the world feeling safe to explore. Everything feels a little bit dangerous or unnerving, creating a sense of anxiety and stress for those people. This sensitivity tends to manifest itself as overreactions.
Those with insecure attachments don’t know how to ask for what they want in healthy ways, it’s just easier to make it look like it’s someone else’s fault and play the victim.
5. They’re insecure
An insecure person is pretty easy to spot. They’re always looking for validation from others instead of seeking their own self-work, and have a hard time brushing off the little things.
Insecurities allow for people to be much more sensitive and easily offended than they might usually be. Being offended makes them feel empowered it allows them to make others feel guilty, which puts them in a position of power.
Grudges and offense are mechanisms for avoiding vulnerability but also a way of avoiding the real problems at the root of their pain.
6. They need empathy
Everyone deserves empathy, and although it’s true that it’s harder to give empathy to some rather than others, that doesn’t make them any less deserving. Being empathetic doesn’t mean you need to take on someone else’s problems, it just means being a little more understanding.
Set clear boundaries but allow yourself to be a shoulder to cry on. Try to understand where they’re coming from and work on being a little more compassionate. You don’t know the difference it might make.
7. They might be narcissistic
On the other side of the spectrum is someone who is easily offended but completely self-involved. No matter how much sense you try to throw at them, how many facts you recite, there is no reasoning. They are right and you are wrong.
By snapping straight into being offended, they shut down any conducive conversation and their belief becomes hardened into fact for them.
8. They want attention
We all like a bit of a whine now and then, in fact sometimes it’s necessary to get something off our chest. People who are easily offended, on the other hand, love to complain, they love the sound of their own voice, and they love the attention complaining gets them.
By being easily offended, it’s a quick way to demand the time and ears of others and rehash the horrible thing that just happened to them. Although, nine times out of ten, the offense is never really that bad, and most people wouldn’t consider it that offensive in the first place.
9. They might actually have a right to be offended
We live in a world of opposing sides, whether you’re a boomer, a millennial, or belong to GenZ, everyone has an opinion of everybody else. Taking offense is at times a valid and reasonable feeling when someone is insulting you, judging you, or being downright ignorant.
You have a right to be upset when something legitimately offensive happens, nor does anyone have the right to tell you you’re too sensitive for feeling that way.
10. Their offense is subjective
When someone gets offended, the worst thing anyone can do is belittle that feeling. Telling someone they aren’t really insulted or telling them they shouldn’t get so upset will only worsen how they feel. Feelings of offense or insult are inherently personal because they can play on insecurities or values which are important to someone.
When you hurt someone who is easily offended, don’t try to play down their feelings or absolve yourself of guilt. Listen to why they feel offended and take it into account. Make a genuine apology and try not to do it again in the future.
Obviously, not all of the above truths apply to any one person, maybe it’s only one, or maybe it’s several at once. The fact is that some people are more sensitive than others, and that’s okay.
The real issue is that we are so quick to dismiss them as ‘snowflakes’, making a bigger deal out of things than they need to. In reality, we all need to be a little kinder to one another and close the divide that is so steadily growing.
With a little empathy, you might help someone who needs it more than you realize. However, that does come with the important caveat that if you are being genuinely offensive, you should stop. Like, right now.
- Ames, D., Lee, Al., & Wazlawek, A. (2017). Interpersonal assertiveness: Inside the balancing act.
- Bandura A. (1977) Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavior change.
- Hackney, H. L., & Cormier, S. (2017). The professional counselor: a process guide to helping (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Additional readings as assigned by the Instructor.
- Poggi, I., & D’Errico, F. (2018). Feeling offended: A blow to our image and our social relationships.
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