How to Talk without Offending Anyone part 2
11:32:26 2024-05-06 195

1- Compliment actions rather than physical characteristics.

Complimenting someone for something they can't control can be offensive. Focus on the things people do and the choices they make, rather than the physical attributes they were born with. When you compliment someone's physical features, you can come across as objectifying them, which can be highly offensive.

  • For example, if you like one of the baristas at your regular coffee shop, you might compliment the way he makes your coffee rather than his eyes or his hair.
  • If you like a particular physical characteristic, you can still say so! Just focus your compliment on something the person did that brings out that particular feature. For example, rather than saying someone has pretty eyes (which they were born with and can't control), you might say, "That shirt you're wearing really enhances the color of your eyes."

2- Keep praise proportionate to the action.

People feel belittled if you praise them profusely for small achievements. Typically, this sort of over-the-top praise carries an assumption that the achievement is a big deal for someone because of their race, gender, or disability. Ask yourself if you would offer the same level of praise if that person was exactly like you.

  • For example, a disabled person is likely to get offended if you praise them for everyday actions such as getting groceries or going to the post office. You wouldn't praise an able-bodied person for getting their errands done! Save your praise for accomplishments where it's warranted.
  • Similarly, someone who's just living their life and doing relatively ordinary things doesn't need to be told they're amazing or an "inspiration" because they happen to be living with a disability.

3- Avoid imposing your feelings on others.

Use neutral words without emotional content or negative connotations. Generally, saying someone "has" a disease or condition is better than saying they "suffer" from it. Particularly when you're talking about a chronic condition, people are typically just trying to live their lives, and may not feel that they're suffering from day to day.

  • Similarly, it can be offensive to disabled people to call them "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair." For a disabled person, their mobility aid is liberating and allows them to do things on their own that they'd otherwise need assistance to do.

4- Accept people with an open mind.

Show that you're willing to listen to other ideas and viewpoints. Not everybody is going to agree with you and there's nothing wrong with that. By listening and trying to understand why people think the way they do, you can learn something about yourself and other people.

  • You run the risk of offending people when you reduce their value to where they stand on a particular issue. But all people are complex and have many different reasons that they think the way they do.
  • This doesn't mean that you have to agree with them, or even pretend that you do. But you can show respect by listening to them and giving them a chance to explain their point of view.

5- Apologize when called out or corrected.

If you do offend someone, learn from your mistake. It takes courage for someone to stand up for themselves when they're offended by something someone else said. Tell them you're sorry, that you didn't intend to hurt them, and that it'll never happen again.

  • Always try to own your apology rather than putting it on the other person.
  • Don't press them for details or ask them to explain or justify their feelings. The fact that your words hurt them is all you need to know. If they do take the time to explain what you said wrong, thank them.
  • You could also say "Your opinions are important to me. I value hearing from you, and I hope that you'll continue to share that kind of thing with me."


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