No Offense

Ben Lyons, Staff Writer

“Hey, no offense, but [insert blatantly insulting comment here]”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because people have been using the “no offense” trope since the dawn of time in order to “soften the blow” of brutal honesty, but in truth, that is neither the intent nor the result.

This is a tool used by people trying to shield themselves, not others, and somewhat hypocritically, from the backlash that comes along with targeting another. People targeted with this trope are inevitably insulted, because they been degraded, but are at the same time asked to act like it didn’t just happen. Their next course of action is to either smile through it or confront the person in a zero-sum game, while the person clings to their two-word disclaimer for dear life.

To Bingham junior Ashlyn Owens, this confrontation isn’t as simple as calling someone out, it’s an uphill battle. “I don’t like confronting people, it’s one of my least favorite things in the world, but I really think it is better if you’re upfront with people rather than going behind their back, “ she said when asked about being in such a situation.

If someone feels hurt or offended by something said to them, regardless of what it was, that is an emotion that belongs to them, and it is no one else’s place to tell them they feel otherwise. Let someone decide for themselves if they are offended by what’s said to them based on subject matter, rather than adding a substance-less tack-on such as “no offense.”

This isn’t the only way people masquerade vitriol. In the same vein as “no offense” you can also find phrases such as “not to be racist, but…”, “I’m just brutally honest”, “it’s just my opinion”, “don’t be so sensitive” and the generation-transcending “bless your heart”. These phrases should be immediate red flags for you to prepare for an impending onslaught of bitter remarks. Further, these remarks, in all likelihood, aren’t going to be constructive, or even attempt to contribute insight in their claimed “tough-love” way.

“No offense” phrasing tactics are designed so that people can appear nice without having to reevaluate how they are treating their fellow human beings. It’s like taking a package of cigarettes, slapped a “no longer causes cancer” label on it, and changing nothing about the original product.

The common claim people make to justify their spiteful rhetoric is that “it is honest, constructive criticism”. There is a clear distinction between just being critical and being rude. Criticism entails respect, being rude doesn’t.

If you, unprovoked, tell someone they are ugly under the guise of honesty, what is to be gained from that? There is no respect in a situation where your goal is not to help, but to hurt, and especially when you pretend to be benign by using half-hearted coverups. According to Independent, “if the truth you are telling does not need telling, you are being rude.” Being honest is not an excuse to take away the respect that Owens believes “everyone deserves a decent amount of.”

Letting your opinion free is not, per se, a bad thing, and is, in fact, a healthy way of expressing individuality. “Spare people’s feelings but let your opinions be heard,” said Owens, as they are not mutually exclusive.

If you want to tell someone that you know and understand a hard-hitting truth should be an exercise in the golden rule. That means letting go of the tropes, being constructive, and doing your best to make them realize that, despite any flaws, they have redeemable qualities. If you approach the situation right, they will take what you have to say to heart, without any hard feelings.

No offense.