As humans we love to laugh or do things to just for kicks, but sometimes we take our silly efforts just a little too far. When we don’t mean to offend the person we aim our toy dart at, we take it for granted they realize that we’re only kidding. Unfortunately, what I’d like to refer to as the insultee (the target of the insult) isn’t always on the same page the offender is on.
Sometimes we would like to give another person feedback, but expressing the right words can be challenging. Though we mean no harm, the recipient of our message may take what we say the wrong way.
In either case, our innocent little chat turns into a destructive insult. Once the “blow” has been delivered, taking back what we said becomes nearly impossible, unless the offensive comment was dealt because of a misunderstanding.
People are basically sensitive and insecure to some degree. Most everyone is likely to take everything they hear seriously. Everything you say to someone is taken as nothing but information. Also, we respond to all comments we hear as if they were commands. We naturally try to do what we should do to make people happy and avoid offending them. Because we truly want to do right all of the time, we take everything we hear seriously.
Delivering a carelessly misfired comment can seriously damage a relationship. I heard it said, a friendship is created by many acts but destroyed by one.
Why We Insult Others
We crave excitement – Doing the same thing day after day and behaving properly all the time becomes mundane. Though we’ve been conditioned to always do right and mind our manners, we know that by being good or nice all the time will not reap us a reward in the end. By giving others a “hard time” we can create a little excitement for ourselves and them too.
We become fed up – There are a countless number of things we dislike in others. Examples of such things may be: the way people dress, poor hygiene, different personality types, cultural behaviors, others’ attitudes, habits, selfishness, smoking, those with physical flaws (as obesity), and the list goes on and on. People think and act differently than we do which sometimes is hard to accept. When we become fed up with differences between us and them, we emit insults just to vent the way we feel.
We seek approval from others – This is especially true in the workplace. Some feel that to prove that we are worthy to their peers, will put others down to win their approval. This is where gossiping comes in. By acting as an information source, we aim to boost our own self-worth and make people believe we are on top of everything that is going on. Once we earn others’ approval, this entices us to do it more and more.
We love to laugh – Laughing brings us excitement. Making others laugh makes us feel clever. We also feel better about ourselves. Also, we tend to laugh about annoyances in our everyday lives such as doing poorly on tests, getting chastised by superiors, lying about our bad habits, the destruction pets or children do, cultural behavior, etc, etc, etc. Laughing is a free form of entertainment and an assuring way to brighten our day.
Why We Get Offended
There are numerous reasons why people get offended by some comments. Each individual has their own unique collection of past experiences that shape their current ways of thinking along with unique personality traits. Likewise, we had to deal with certain people who have their own flaws and quirks. We’ve all made some really bad mistakes that often resulted in crucial damage.
Considering all these factors combined, we all have developed our “trigger points” or things that set us off. In time we accrue a big collection of misfortunate events that when added together sum up to a negative image of ourselves. When people say or do things that remind us of our misfortunes or faults, we then become offended. That’s because the negative traits we learned about ourselves have been reinforced.
I can state numerous examples. Girls who were molested and raped as kids are likely to become easily offended by others who act like their predators even in minor ways. Children who were abused by their parents may be ashamed of their childhoods and be easily insulted by comments pertaining to child abuse.
People Are More Sensitive Now Than Ever Before
Over time, we’ve become a society that is quite eloquent at being sarcastic. Now there are even more idioms or figures of speech used to express specific types of people or certain kinds of events commonly encountered than ever before. We’ve nearly modified the English language with a big collection of slang expressions and truncated words that adversely describe people or things.
We are also living in a society of declining morals and values. People have become ever more freely inclined to express their inner feelings and desires. Manners and respect for others have diminished greatly. Respect for authority figures as the government, lawyers, or the police force has turned into combativeness or defiance.
As I see it, we are becoming a tired and overworked society that is fed up with others who benefit through their own greed or laziness. Rather than making an honest living, some have developed unscrupulous strategies to become rich. One great example is computer hackers. They make using cyberspace tougher every day and ruin our peace of mind. Sometimes we are tempted to do similar things to get ahead.
Unfortunately we can’t get ahead. So what do we do? We develop resentment towards those at the top, or the wealthy class in general. We look up to them in jealousy, envy, and even hatred. As a result, we feel insignificant and seek out ways to fight back. One great example is insulting celebrities. So we don’t have the musical talent or looks they do so what do we do? Insult them.
At the same time, we live in a materialistic society where we can have whatever we want if we know how to get it. We’d all like to become rich with as little as effort as possible. We’ve been spoiled by all the modern-day conveniences and often refuse to live without them. We’ll do anything to improve our standard of living. Such examples may be cheating on our taxes or hurting retailers through stealing or deceptive merchandise returning tactics. Everyone else does it, why can’t we?
Most of all, respect for our contemporaries has diminished. We become selfish and inconsiderate. Some cheat on their spouses while others take advantage of their employers. Children defy parents or school authorities and may react in violence. Sexual desires are more openly express now than ever before.
We freely speak our minds and act how we want to. We are more inclined to put others down and do so on impulse. It’s like, we aren’t happy unless we are constantly bashing someone, either in our minds or out loud. As everyday life becomes harder for us, we tend to hurt the ones we love as a means of venting.
What does this all boil down to? A ruthless, cutthroat society! Because of this, insults are being flung around more than ever and people are treated rudely or unfairly. Such behavior only leads to trouble.
With our quest for revenge and our thirst for wealth, many of us turn to the legal system, especially those who feel they’re potential targets of unfair treatment. Women, senior citizens, the handicapped, and minorities have commonly been victims of discrimination and unequal treatment. Adding sexuality into the equation, there has been an increased level of sensitivity in our society.
More than ever before, employers must carefully adapt policies to prevent abuse. People must be more careful about what they say and do to prevent offending others. Advertisers and retailers must be careful on how they word their ads so there are no sexual or racial implications. Those who feel they are likely to be maliciously treated become overly sensitive to things people around them say and do.
Emails have also become an offending means of communication. Each message conveys a certain tone. Although the sender of the message did not mean to be sarcastic, solemn, or angry, the recipient may believe it was meant to be. The two are definitely on different wavelengths. Relationships at work have been damaged because of this.
If you must send someone an email, put in a few positive lines like, “How are you doing?” or add a line of good news. Tell the person that you appreciate their effort. Just find something positive to mix in with your message.
Mopping Up the Mess
The damage we do to others is often far greater than we realize. Though we only meant to make a funny or sarcastic remark, we see it in our minds that what we said was simply that. Nothing more. We assume the recipient of the comment will see it the same way, but that is not always so.
Typically, the recipient feels flattered or hurt by the remark. The insultee will feel guilty as if she failed to deliver on an obligation. She will also and believe that the person who made the remark see her as inferior. She is then convinced that the offender intentionally meant to be cruel. Her past experiences and flaws are likely to add to her anguish. Her self-esteem will take a great blow as well. The damage can penetrate far deeper than the insulter will ever know.
OK, the insulted party can be a male as well.
If the remark is not incident-related but about herself in general, she will become even more insecure than before. She will wonder what she did or said that gave the insulter the negative impression.
After the damage has been done, it’s usually too late to say “I’m sorry.” That doesn’t always get it. “I’m sorry” often sounds like flattery. It’s kind of like being ignorant to the laws. The worn out phrase, “I didn’t know….” will not likely let the offender off the hook.
If the insultee is a loved-one, the insulter can often make good on the situation, but there will be a period of resentment between the two that will take time to heal. If the insulter admits he was wrong and attempts to make good, that serves as a great gesture. Still this may not totally fix the damage caused.
OK, the insulter can be a woman too.
If the remark was made to a friend, relative, coworker, or other acquaintance, the damage may be worse. Even if the offender resolves the problem satisfactorily, the hurt will not be entirely gone. The offended will get over it, but their relationship may never be as strong as before. This is especially true if the insultee never believed the insulter would ever do or say such a thing in the first place. From now on, the offended will only act with caution to prevent this same situation from happening again. She will brace herself from getting hurt again. However, the bitter memory will always be there.
Practicing Damage Control
Think before you speak. Plan to say what you need to say in a way that it won’t be taken offensively. If you really want to tease someone just for a laugh, make it clear that you are only kidding. You can do this by adding a chuckle to your comment or talking in a humorous tone. Think about how your remark would affect one if really meant it.
Other damage prevention tips:
- Limit your humor and kidding to someone you know will tolerate it. If you have a good friend or family member that you both kid around with each other, then it’s OK. If the person is a BS’er and loves to give you a hard time, you both can exchange silly remarks, but even then, try not to cut too deep. If the person you’re bullshitting recently done something hurtful or embarrassing, like got a DWI, filed for divorce, got fired, etc, avoid kidding about this subject.
- Don’t kid people about personal flaws or bad habits, such as obesity or alcoholism.
- Limit your kidding to your time at home or at a casual social event. Refrain from kidding at family gatherings, special interest events, school, or work.
- Kid only those that you personally don’t have anything against. Make sure they know you would never deliberately say something to them to be cruel.
- Try to be tolerant of others and don’t look down on them just because you disagree with something they do.
- Don’t kid casual acquaintances unless you know they can take it. When around relatives or coworkers, act politely and keep quiet about their flaws.
- Don’t gossip or talk behind peoples’ backs. If this kind of talk catches up with them, it could spell trouble for you and possible ruin a good relationship. The offended party may no longer feel they can trust you.
- Finally, remember the person you would like to razz is not necessarily on the same wavelength as you.
- Don’t make derogative remarks about famous people, the president, races, religion, trends, peoples’ habits or behaviors, etc, especially in front people you don’t know.
Practicing good damage control techniques can save relationships and lots of grief. Also, it can save you from singing the blues later.
COMMENTS ENCOURAGED. Hopefully that covers it. If there is anything I said wrong or left out please let me know. Don’t tell me this post is good or bad, but why it is. Thank you.
- My favorite insult (oup.com)
- Take it with a grain of salt (cuptosaucer.wordpress.com)
- Laugh at your own risk (thezimbabwean.co.uk)
- Don’t Let Peer Pressure Dominate Your Life (babymalyun.wordpress.com)
- Q&A: Why Insults Exist – and Why One Man Wants to End Them (newsfeed.time.com)